Identifying Elderly Abuse

The elderly are fragile and vulnerable to abuse and its many forms. According to The American Psychological

Association there are 2.1 million cases of elder abuse reported annually, while a number of other abuse cases go unreported because the victim is isolated, disabled, or living in fear of their caregiver. It is a common misconception that most incidents of elder abuse occur in nursing home, when in fact, they occur in the person’s home. Perpetrators include family members, other household members, and paid caregivers.

(Related: Mickey Rooney Testifies about Elder Abuse)

Physical abuse is the most obvious form of abuse, often revealed by bruises and broken bones, but there are a number of forms of subtle abuse and neglect. Leaving someone with dementia alone (even if for a brief period of time) is one example of neglect, in addition to a failure to provide nutrition, medication, and items like glasses, walkers or canes. Caregivers and family members often emotionally abuse their elder by isolating them from friends and other family members, or by denying them access to activities outside of the home, being verbally aggressive or demeaning, eliminating autonomy from the person’s life, or by being generally unkind.

(Read more: Power of Attorney: Protecting your finances in the event of incapacity)

Examples of financial abuse include: coercing or tricking the elder to sign a statutory power of attorney thereby giving the agent broad power over the person’s assets; withholding care despite the financial resources; using the elderly person’s Medicare benefit for unintended purposes; and coercing the elderly person to gift away large cash amounts or property.

(Read more: Long-term Care: Rising Costs and Potential Savings)

Lastly, sexual abuse of the elder becomes evident when symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases present in one with no prior history of STDs. Advanced planning with an elder law attorney or life care planner can contribute greatly to the prevention of these types of abuse, especially financial abuse.

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