Elder Abuse: An Overview
Written by Cooper & Friedman PLLC on March 9, 2021
Although often overlooked or unseen, hundreds of thousands of older adults (60+) experience some form of elder abuse every year. Elder abuse is abuse that someone causes to seniors. It can be intentional or due to negligence.
According to the CDC, there are 6 types of elder abuse: physical, sexual, emotional or psychological, neglect, and financial exploitation. It can happen in any situation including a nursing home, a relative or friend’s house, or an assisted living facility. This abuse has devastating long-term effects, even resulting in post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) or early death. Being acquainted with the risk factors, signs, and preventative measures of this abuse can reduce the risk of experiencing it in your family.
Recent studies show that 1 in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse. However, other sources estimate that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are even reported to authorities. Why is this?
There are several reasons so many cases of this abuse go unreported. The first is that relatives are responsible for the majority (60%) of elder abuse cases. This can include an adult child or niece/nephew. It’s easy to assume that family members would treat each other well, but this is sadly not the case. By establishing a “relationship of trust,” family members are able to take advantage of elders more easily.
Secondly, many older adults are physically/mentally impaired or socially isolated. This makes it close to impossible for them to ask for help or even know if something is wrong. In many instances, it’s up to bystanders to notice subtle signs of mistreatment/neglect. This can include changes in mood/mental health or physical wounds such as visible injuries, bed sores, weight loss, or lack of hygiene.
It’s important to keep in mind that sometimes tiny incidents, like witnessing a caretaker belittle or argue with an elder, can indicate serious problems under the surface. If you think you’ve witnessed abuse, call 911 to report a life-threatening situation, call your local adult protective services, contact the police, or reach out to an attorney.
Preventing Elder Abuse
Preventing elder abuse begins with consciousness and education. Discussing risk factors with your family and vulnerable elders in your life can help spread awareness. Making sure friends/relatives are getting treatment for addiction and/or mental health issues can reduce their risks. Planning for your future as you age by setting up a community support system, having an attorney/will, and taking care of both your mental and physical health can reduce the possibility of experiencing elder abuse.
Maintaining economic stability, controlling your own bank account, and not falling prey to scams also helps reduce the risk of financial exploitation. Even if you’re not yet close to being 60+, you can still take action to limit your chance of future mistreatment by maintaining physical, mental, and financial stability.
Since elder abuse is a crime, you can typically seek criminal prosecution. Contacting an attorney to discuss your options is the first step in seeking litigation. If you or someone you love has been the victim of elder abuse or neglect in the State of Kentucky or Southern Indiana, the experienced attorneys at Cooper and Friedman can help. For more information or a free case consultation with an attorney, call 502-459-7555 today.