The World Health Organization (WHO) provides some very startling statistics on the treatment of the elderly, including the fact that one in six people 60 years and older experienced some form of abuse in community settings in the past year. Moreover, the rates of elder abuse are high in institutions such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities, where two in three staff reporting that they have committed abuse in the past year.
Nowhere is the threat of elder abuse greater than here in Florida where more than 4.5 million of our citizens are over the age of 60—roughly 21% of Floridians are seniors. And the proportion of Florida’s population that’s 60 and older is growing more rapidly than other states: the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that a third of Florida’s population will be 60 and older by the year 2030.
Because of these numbers, everyone in our state should understand the different types of elder abuse that can occur in the home and in nursing home facilities—by both family members and health care professionals.
What are the Different Types of Elder Abuse?
Neglect. This is a caregiver’s failure to provide the required care for a senior. This applies to individuals as well as the responsibility of nursing homes and other care facilities. Neglect can be active or passive—a caregiver either intentionally withholds care or won’t fulfill his or her responsibilities (passive). Neglect also is the failure to provide a dependent senior with life necessities, like food, clean water, personal hygiene, clean clothing, medicine, safety, and basic comfort. This type of elder abuse may also contribute to emotional abuse.
Physical Abuse. This is the use of physical force likely to result in injury, physical pain, or impairment. Law enforcement frequently sees physical abuse such as hitting, beating, pushing, shaking, burning, kicking, and slapping. This can also include other forms of physical such as force-feeding, excessive use of physical restraints, the inappropriate use of medications, and keeping an individual against their will (known as “false arrest”.).
Emotional or Psychological Abuse. This is an act that causes emotional pain, distress, or anguish and frequently takes the form of emotional or psychological abuse from verbal assaults, threats, insults, intimidation, humiliation, harassment, and treating a senior like a child.
Sexual Abuse. All non-consensual sexual contact with an elderly person is considered sexual abuse. This also occurs with an elderly person who can’t give consent or who’s too confused to fully understand what is happening.
Financial Exploitation. This type of elder abuse includes a wide variety of fraud, confidence schemes (or “con jobs”), outright theft, and other ways of gaining a financial or material advantage from a vulnerable senior. We frequently see exploitation in the form of cashing a senior’s checks without approval, forging signatures, or theft of the misuse of a senior’s money or valuable possessions. It can also be applying undue influence or using coercion, misrepresentation, or deception to get a senior to sign a document, as well as improperly using the authority provided by a guardianship, conservatorship, or power of attorney. In addition, financial elder abuse can be in the form of a telemarketing scam, sweepstakes fraud, or other schemes that prey on the weaknesses of senior citizens.
Abandonment. This happens when a caretaker leaves an elderly victim to fend for him or herself. Examples include leaving an unsuspecting elderly victim at a nursing home, library, or shopping center… it’s disregarding the caregiver’s responsibilities to care for the victim.
Self-Neglect. This is the only type of elder abuse that doesn’t have a perpetrator. Self-neglect usually happens when a senior threatens his or her own health or safety by failing to provide himself or herself with adequate hygiene, food, water, medications, or safety.
What are the Common Signs of Possible Elder Abuse?
Here are some of the most common signs of elder abuse. When visiting your loved one, you should watch for any of the following:
- Bad personal hygiene and bedsores;
- Improper use of prescription medication usage (taking the wrong dose or none at all);
- A drastic loss of weight or weight gain;
- Bruises, scratches, and obvious physical trauma;
- Witnessing caregivers using threats and power to control your elderly family member;
- Clear tension and conflict between your elderly loved one and their caregiver; and
- Unexplained changes in personality, disposition, emotions, or alertness.
Also, a sudden and drastic change in finances may indicate exploitation, as discussed above. This can include a dishonest caregiver misusing a senior’s checking account or credit cards, stealing a senior’s cash or personal items of value, and forging the senior’s signature, which can be a form of identity theft.
Moreover, it’s not uncommon for an elder abuse victim to suffer more than one type of abuse.
It’s true that some of these signs may also be indications of other medical issues and/or increased dementia, but loved ones should thoroughly investigate any concerns of abuse.
About one in 10 Americans over the age of 60 have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some research states that as many as 5 million seniors are abused each year. But very few of these cases of abuse are reported to authorities.
Elder abuse can result in serious physical injuries and long-term psychological consequences. Make sure you understand the warning signs and the different types of elder abuse and contact an experienced elder abuse attorney at Trentalange & Kelley P.A. with your concerns.
Elder abuse is a tragic issue that can cause serious physical and psychological harm for the elderly in Florida. Knowing the warning signs and indicators of abuse can help you protect your loved one.
It’s important that you consult with an experienced elder abuse attorney, so speak to an attorney at Trentalange & Kelley P.A. We will help you with all of the issues to make certain that you’re successful in obtaining the compensation your loved one deserves and his or her legal rights are protected.
Call (813) 226-1080 for a free consultation if you suspect elder abuse.