The National Council on Aging reports that approximately 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 60 have experienced some form of elder abuse and while as many as 5 million elders may be abused each year, it is estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to the authorities. Although victims of elder abuse may suffer at the hands of friends or relatives, according to our friends over at Salvi, Schostok, & Pritchard, P.C., elder abuse also occurs in “trusted and safe” places like nursing home facilities. If your elderly loved one resides in a nursing home, it’s important to know how to identify and report elder abuse.
When considering the safety of elderly Americans, one big question that stands out is “Why is elder abuse unreported?” While there is no clear answer to this troubling question, there may be several reasons why only 1 out of 14 cases of abuse are reported to the proper authorities. Abuse may go unreported due to the lack of resources, such of caseworkers or funding, and many states have different methods of reporting, resulting in inconsistent reporting. Sadly, yet not surprisingly, one of the main reasons that elder abuse may go unreported is because victims are either fearful or unable to report the abuse. Finally, some cases may go unreported because family and friends of elderly victims are unaware of or don’t know how to identify abuse.
People often think that abuse is only identified through visible bruising or marks left on a victim’s body, but elder abuse can include several types of abuse such as physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse, exploitation, neglect, and abandonment. Although physical abuse and neglect may be the easiest to identify, other types of abuse like sexual or emotional abuse and financial exploitation may be more difficult to identify.
Although there may be many signs associated with elder abuse, here are some common ones to look for and pay attention to:
Extreme changes in your elderly loved one’s emotional well being, physical appearance/health, and overall demeanor can be any number of things, but may indicate abuse.
Unfortunately, many people are afraid to report suspected abuse in fear that they are wrong, but failing to report signs of elder abuse can be a matter of life or death. If an elderly adult is in life-threatening and immediate danger, you should call 911. If you suspect abuse, you owe it to your loved one to contact Adult Protective services, Long-term Care Ombudsman, or the local police, and see what you can do to help. While some cases end up going nowhere (and deemed free from abuse), it’s better to report any concerns than ignore your instincts or suspicions.
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