What constitutes elder abuse and neglect? Elder abuse occurs when any caregiver or person causes harm to a vulnerable adult. This abuse can occur intentionally or negligently.

There are laws in each state in place that define elder abuse differently. However, the broad definition of elder abuse includes physical, emotional, financial, and sexual abuse.

Elder neglect occurs when a caregiver or any person fails to meet their caretaking needs. In fact, this can occur knowingly or unknowingly. You can base neglect on whether a responsible caretaker would provide a higher standard of care given the circumstances.

How Does Elder Neglect Differ from Elder Self-Neglect?

Elder self-neglect is different from elder neglect because the vulnerable adult is their own caretaker. Neglect happens when a caretaker, family member, or another person fails to care for a senior. However, with self-neglect, there is no independent caretaker that is responsible for the senior’s health.

Elder self-neglect is easy to overlook.  It occurs when they can no longer meet their basic needs on their own. Their inability to care for themselves often puts vulnerable adults in dangerous situations that could lead to injury or death.

What Steps Should I Take to Identify Elder Abuse and Neglect?

There are several warning signs of elder abuse and neglect. First, it is important to understand what constitutes elder abuse and neglect so that you can identify whether abuse or neglect is taking place. 

Second, you should visit your loved ones often. This will allow you to observe their living conditions and their physical, emotional, and mental health. This includes visiting at home and in a long-term care facility, as elder abuse can occur between family members or with caretakers.

What Are the Signs of Physical Elder Abuse?

Physical elder abuse occurs when another person causes intentional injury to a vulnerable adult. Signs of physical abuse can include:

  • Bruises, cuts, and open wounds.
  • Physical signs of restraint around arms, chest, and legs.
  • Black eyes, broken bones, welts, and lacerations.

While these injuries can be a way to identify elder abuse, it might also be the cause of an accident. If you notice the physical signs of elder abuse, you should also look for non-physical signs of abuse, such as:

  • A vulnerable adult reporting being physical violence or mistreatment.
  • Sudden changes in a vulnerable adult’s mood, behavior, and daily routine.
  • Refusal from a caretaker to speak alone and in person with the vulnerable adult’s family members.

How Can I Identify Elder Sexual Abuse?

Elder sexual abuse occurs when a caretaker or any adult has nonconsensual sexual content with a vulnerable adult. This can include:

  • Rape and sodomy.
  • Forced nudity, sexual photography, and other sexual coercion.
  • Unwanted touching of the vulnerable adult or coercion of a vulnerable adult to make sexual contact with a caregiver or another person.

Sexual abuse of seniors can be difficult to identify because of the intimate nature of these abuses. The physical signs of elder sexual abuse include:

  • Bruises around sexual organs.
  • Diseases, infections, or unexplained bleeding of the sexual organs.
  • Underclothing that shows signs of sexual abuse.

Besides the physical signs of sexual abuse, a vulnerable adult might confide in a loved one that a sexual assault or rape occurred.

What Actions Should I Take When I Suspect Abuse or Neglect?

If you suspect elder abuse or neglect, you should contact:

  • 911 or the local police if the vulnerable adult is in immediate danger.
  • An Adult Protective Services agency or an Ombudsman in your area.
  • Other trusted family members or managers in the care facility.
  • The vulnerable adult’s attorney, who can provide legal counsel.

What Information Will I Need to Provide If I Report Signs that Constitute Elder Abuse and Neglect?

When you report elder abuse, you will need to provide personal information about the vulnerable adult that is being abused. You will also need to explain why you believe that they are being abused or neglected. Although authorities will ask for your personal information, you are not required to provide it.

How Are Abusers Held Accountable for Their Actions?

Your state laws define how abusers are held accountable. In Florida, this can include prison time for committing a felony. 

If you suspect that a loved one is experiencing elder abuse or neglect, please call the law offices of Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath at (561) 655-1990. Our knowledgeable and experienced Boca Raton elder abuse attorneys or West Palm Beach elder abuse attorneys can help represent your loved one during investigations and criminal proceedings of elder abuse.

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