Many older people are victims of elder abuse. It is the mistreatment of an older person, usually by a caregiver. It can happen within the family. It can also happen in assisted living facilities or nursing homes. The mistreatment may be
Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
Neglect or abandonment
Financial abuse – stealing of money or belongings
Possible signs of elder abuse include unexplained bruises, burns, and injuries. There may also be bed sores and poor hygiene. The person may become withdrawn, agitated, and depressed. There may be a sudden change in the person’s financial situation. Elder abuse will not stop on its own. Someone else needs to step in and help.
Legal assistance is needed in many abuse cases. Legal services are provided by private investigators, attorneys, programs operated by local or state bar associations, or subsidized legal aid programs. The Older American’s Act established a network of free legal services for persons over the age of 60. These programs are becoming increasingly adept at handling elder abuse cases. The following interventions may be needed in abuse cases:
Lawsuits to recover assets or property
Annulments of bogus marriages
Restraining orders to restrict contact between perpetrators and victims
Guardianship (called conservatorship in some states) is a process by which courts assign responsible persons or agencies to act on behalf of people who are unable to protect themselves or their interests as a result of physical or cognitive impairments. Guardians may be family members or professionals from public or private guardians or in private practice. Some communities have programs that use volunteers to serve as, or monitor, guardians.
If you think that an older person is in urgent danger, call 9-1-1. Otherwise, contact Reliance Group LLC or an adult protective service provider.
Source: NIH: National Institute on Aging, NCPEA: National Council for the Prevention of Elder Abuse