According to the National Council on Aging, ten percent of those over 60 years of age will experience elder abuse in their lifetime. Moreover, it is exceedingly difficult for senior citizens to escape. This is true whether a senior lives with family or in a long-term care facility. So, do you know how to spot elder abuse? Here’s how to report elder abuse if you believe that you or someone else are the victim of an abusive caregiver.
What is elder abuse?
When someone causes harm or is negligent toward a vulnerable adult, they are committing elder abuse. Each state in the U.S. has different elder abuse laws, but it most often takes these common forms:
- Emotional abuse occurs when someone acts in a way that affects a vulnerable senior’s emotional state or causes distress. This can take both verbal and nonverbal forms.
- Physical abuse happens when someone causes physical harm to a senior or makes threats to do so. Deprivation of basic needs can be included in this category.
- Sexual abuse is when a person makes sexual contact with a senior without their consent.
- Neglect occurs when a caregiver fails to maintain a standard of care that any other responsible person would provide.
- Self-Neglect arises when a senior citizen can no longer provide themselves with a level of care. This is especially the case if the senior’s inabilities are a threat to their own safety.
In most cases, elder abuse is committed by family, caregivers, and other members of the community intentionally. However, elder abuse can also be a result of negligent acts or simply by knowing that abuse is taking place but failing to report it.
Why should you report elder abuse?
Anyone, including yourself, can become the victim of elder abuse. As adults grow older, many suffer from diseases like dementia or other cognitive issues. Additionally, elderly people are more likely to be socially isolated or in poor physical health. These effects of aging make seniors especially vulnerable to those they trust.
Therefore, it is up to us as family and friends to take care of those who are the most vulnerable members of our society. You can do this by identifying and reporting cases of elder abuse to the appropriate authorities.
How do you identify elder abuse?
Knowing how to report elder abuse begins with identifying the abuse. Physical abuse can be identified by injuries such as broken bones, burns, or bruises. Emotional abuse may cause dramatic changes in mood, arguments with caregivers, or withdrawal.
Neglect is often the most difficult to hide. It can take the form of poor hygiene or result in medical needs going unattended for extended periods of time. Tense relationships between seniors and their caregivers can also be a sign of emotional or verbal abuse. These are just a few warning signs to look for and often the most indicative that abuse is occurring.
Important Steps to Take
If you do not know the senior that is experiencing abuse, then document and report the incident with the Florida Department of Elder Affairs. However, if you do know the senior being abused, then you can take different actions to prevent further abuse.
Regardless of whether you know the affected senior, if a vulnerable adult is facing a life-threatening situation, you should contact 911. This should always be the first step of the reporting process.
Reporting Elder Abuse of Someone You Know
If an elderly person that you know is not currently in a serious situation, here are the steps you can take to report elder abuse:
- Document the incident. This can include taking photos of living conditions. It may also include taking photos of injuries and labeling the dates that each injury occurred. Also, be sure to document changes in behavior by the elderly person. If you witnessed abuse take place, be sure to document the date, time, and abuser’s personal information.
- Speak to the appropriate authorities. If a family member is taking care of a senior experiencing abuse, speak to other family and elder care professionals about the incident. If they are in a long-term living facility, speak to supervisors and caregivers about the incident. Take notes of who you speak to and follow up with them to ensure that action is taken.
- Move the senior to somewhere safe. If these actions fail to change an abuser’s behavior, then you should remove this senior from the negative environment.
Report Elder Abuse in Florida – Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late
Do you suspect a vulnerable adult is the victim of elder abuse? Contact an experienced West Palm Beach elder abuse attorney at Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath.
Please call us today at (561) 655-1990 to receive a consultation regarding your loved one’s situation.