What is Elder Abuse?

Abuse can happen to anyone, but seniors are especially vulnerable. Because they may not be physically capable of defending themselves from violence, or they may not have the mental capacity to recognize when they are being exploited, older people are often targets of abuse. They may also need assistance from a caregiver who is intentionally or unintentionally neglecting that responsibility. These are all forms of elder abuse, and the National Council on Aging (NCOA) estimates that they affect 1 in 10 Americans aged 60 or older. Today, the team at Slutsky Elder Law would like to share some more information about elder abuse and give you some tips on how to identify and prevent it.

Types of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can take many forms, including:

  • Physical Abuse – Causing bodily harm, whether by hitting, pushing, slapping, or restraining a person against their will are all types of physical abuse.
  • Emotional Abuse – Hurtful words, yelling, threats, or ignoring an elderly person are all forms of psychological or emotional abuse.
  • Neglect – Ignoring an elderly person’s needs, whether they are physical, emotional, or social, is considered abuse.
  • Abandonment – If someone is responsible for providing care to an elderly person who needs assistance and they leave them alone without planning for their care, they are guilty of abuse.
  • Sexual Abuse – This type of abuse is characterized by forcing an elderly person to participate in or watch sexual acts.
  • Financial Abuse – Taking advantage of an older person as a way of getting money is known as financial abuse. It can include forging checks, taking someone else’s government benefits, restricting access to their own money, or using their money without permission. Financial abusers may also attempt to alter documents like wills, deeds, and life insurance policies for their own benefit.

Who Commits Elder Abuse?

Because abusing an elderly person often requires having a close relationship with them, the majority of elder abuse cases are committed by someone the person trusts. In 60% of cases, this is a family member, and in two-thirds of those cases, it is an adult child or spouse. Elderly people may also suffer at the hands of their caretakers, whether they are in a nursing facility or they receive home healthcare. Although only 15,000 instances of nursing home abuse were reported in 2020, the NCOA believes the problem may be much more widespread, affecting up to 5 million people every year.

Recognizing Elder Abuse

Whenever you visit an elderly loved one, you should always be on the lookout for signs of abuse, whether they are living in a nursing facility, receiving care at home, or they are in the care of a family member or friend.

If you notice your loved one has become withdrawn, agitated, or violent it could mean they are being abused. Unexplained cuts, bruises, burns, or scars could be signs of physical abuse. If they are being neglected or have been abandoned, they may have bed sores from being left in one position for too long. Their home may also be unclean or unsafe because they can’t clean up without assistance. Their personal hygiene may also suffer in these situations. Neglect can also be characterized by lack of access to necessary healthcare items like glasses, walkers, dentures, and hearing aids. If your loved one is being financially abused or exploited, they may have trouble paying bills or buying food, despite the fact that they should have enough income to cover these expenses.

How to Help and Older Person Who is Being Abused

If you notice any of the signs of abuse listed above, the best thing to do is talk to your loved one. If they trust you, they may be willing to share details about their abuse so you can report them to the authorities. Understand that they may be unwilling or may be afraid to share that information with you; it doesn’t mean they aren’t being abused. In these cases, you may be able to speak to their doctor about signs of physical abuse or neglect and work together with them to make a report. You can also file a report with any of the following authorities:

  • Older Adult Protective Services – This PA agency provides support and programs to protect older people from abuse. Get help in your county: 
    • Philadelphia County: reports can be made on their website or by calling 215-765-9040 
    • Montgomery County: utilize the countywide hotline at 1-800-734-2020
    • Bucks County: call the county’s 24-hour hotline at 1-800-243-3767
    • Chester County: get help by calling 800-564-7000 toll-free 
    • Delaware County: reach out to COSA’s Protective Services Program at 610-490-1300
  • The National Center on Elder Abuse – If you need guidance on how to report abuse, the Center can tell you where to get help, as well as the specific laws regarding abuse and neglect in PA. Call (855) 500-3537 or visit their website for more information.
  • Long-Term Care Ombudsman – This government official is appointed to advocate for people living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. You can find your PA’s ombudsman here or by calling 717-783-8975.
  • Police If you believe that an elderly loved one is in imminent danger, call 911 and report it to the police right away.

Can Elder Law Attorneys Help Prevent Abuse?

If you have an elderly loved one with diminished physical or mental capacity, an elder law attorney can help you protect them from abuse. Getting a financial power of attorney can help you prevent other parties from financially exploiting your loved one. If they need a higher degree of support, a guardianship arrangement can allow you to keep track of their medical and financial decisions. An elder law attorney can also help your loved one qualify for Medicaid and other programs that will allow them to receive better care in situations where they are at risk of neglect, abuse, or abandonment.

Contact Robert Slutsky today if you need a Medicaid lawyer or guardianship attorney in Montgomery County, PA and surrounding counties. Slutsky Elder Law can also assist you with a range of other legal matters including powers of attorney, will, trusts, and more. Visit our website and schedule a consultation! 

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