Each year an estimated 5 million American elder adults are abused, neglected or exploited. Some experts believe that for every case reported, there are 23 more that go unreported. Elder abuse refers to intentional acts by a caregiver or other trusted individual that may lead to the harm of an elder person. Such acts include neglectful behavior however unintentional it may seem. Some states consider self-neglect as a form of elder abuse as well.
Most Common Types of Elder Abuse
- Neglect: A caregiver fails or refuses to provide care physically or emotionally.
- Physical Abuse: Physically injuring or threatening to harm an elder.
- Psychological Abuse: Verbal threats, attacks, rejection or belittling of an elder causing pain or distress.
- Financial Abuse: Fraud, theft, misuse of authority and coercion of an elder to gain control of an elder’s money or property (forging a signature, taking money, using property or possessions without permission, telemarketing scams).
- Sexual Abuse: Unwanted sexual contact (forced, tricked, coerced or threatened) upon an elder, even if the elder is not able to grant consent.
- Abandonment: A caregiver or other responsible adult deserts an elder who needs care.
- Self-neglect: An elder who is unable to understand the outcome of their actions resulting in danger or harm.
How To Prevent Elder Abuse
- Recognize Warning Signs: Physical abuse like slap marks, bruises, certain types of burns (like cigarette burns); neglect like malnutrition, lack of medical care, or lack of cleanliness; sudden changes in finances and accounts, altered wills, trusts, checks written as loans or gifts; sexual abuse like bruising around the breasts or genital area; and changes in behavior, withdrawal from activities, etc. Don’t overlook possible abuse from family members (it’s estimated that 60 to 90 percent of financial elder abuse is committed by family members). The senior’s bills aren’t being paid even though they have the financial resources to pay the bills. Isolation from family and friends can also be a sign of abuse – elders are often embarrassed to admit they’ve been abused and withdraw to avoid questions. Another good example is when a senior is being given care below the level she can afford – where did the money for her care go?
- Report Suspected Mistreatment: Contact your local adult services agency or law enforcement if you suspect elder abuse. Even if the issue has been reported once, there may be ongoing issues that need attention.
- Research Caregivers: Make sure you know as much as possible about the personal care attendants you hire for an elder person. Check multiple references and get a background check. Be specific about your expectations for care.
- Stay Social: Encourage elders to stay in touch with family, friends and neighbors. Staying in touch can help prevent self-neglect and provide a network of individuals who can spot elder abuse.
- Stay Alert: Now that you know the warning signs, take note of the activities of elders you come in contact with including neighbors and acquaintances.
- Raise Awareness: Talk with family and friends about elder abuse. You can also volunteer through local programs to provide help and support for seniors.
- Contact Local Agencies for Assistance: Local programs Like Meals on Wheels provide seniors with help to stay well and independent.
National Adult Protective Services Resource Center www.apsnetwork.org
Administration on Aging (AoA) https://aoa.acl.gov/AoA_Programs/Elder_Rights/index.aspx
Eldercare Locator www.eldercare.gov
Marquette Bank has resources in place to help clients who are victims of Elder Financial Abuse and proactively monitors accounts for signs of financial fraud. If you are a customer, who is experiencing financial abuse or have questions, contact 1-888-254-9500.