What is Elder Abuse and How Do I Take Legal Action?


What is Elder Abuse and How Do I Take Legal Action?

Putting your loved one’s safety in the hands of others is always nerve-racking. Finding out that the people you trusted to take care of that loved one have abused them is downright heartbreaking — and angering. Sadly, elder abuse is far more common than you might think. Three million people in the U.S. experience some kind of neglect or abuse while in nursing homes. So what is elder abuse and how can you take legal action? Here are some tips.

What is Elder Abuse?

Any time someone in charge of caring for an elderly person abuses, neglects, or takes advantage of them, it’s elder abuse. An elder is legally defined as anyone who is 60 years of age or older. This care can be in any capacity. Nursing homes, in-home care, assisted living, someone else’s home, in a hospital, during physical therapy — all of these situations can put an elderly person at risk of elder abuse. The elderly may not always speak up. Sometimes they’re embarrassed. Other times they don’t think anyone will believe them. And in many cases, they feel threatened by their abuser and feel that if they speak up, worse things will happen to them. You can help by looking for the signs of elder abuse.

Types of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can take many forms. There are five main types of elder abuse: physical, sexual, emotional/psychological, financial, and neglect. Knowing the signs of each of these forms of elder abuse can save lives. Here are the warning signs to look for that can help you identify each type of abuse.

●     Physical Abuse – unexplained cuts and bruises, bleeding, sprains, broken bones, person doesn’t want to seek medical attention, repetitive injuries (often of the same kind)

●     Sexual Abuse – torn clothing, bloody clothing, STDs, bruises on or around sensitive areas, bleeding from sensitive areas, change in behavior

●     Psychological Abuse – unexplained changes in behavior, rocking, thumb sucking, talking to self, confusion, depression, no interest in preferred activities, withdrawn behavior, frightened behavior, insomnia, nightmares

●     Financial Abuse – unexplained withdrawals, “new friend” that seems too close, missing financial paperwork, forged signatures, letters or documents that change or disappear, collection call, utilities that get shut off

●     Neglect – Hygiene not kept up, dirty clothes, skin rashes, missing medical devices (like hearing aides or walkers), rapid weight loss, bedsores, disappearance of hunger

This is not a complete list of symptoms, but it should give you a good idea of what to look for. Any time your loved one shows a change of behavior or things don’t seem right, follow that intuition and look deeper.

Seeking Legal Help

Speaking with the victim of elder abuse to get as much information as possible is important. Try to make them understand that there’s nothing to be ashamed of, that you care about them, and that you’re going to make sure this abuse stops. However, if pushing them to answer more questions is going to cause them undue anxiety, just get whatever information you can. Record what you can and take it to the facility. However, since many facilities may feel more pressure to protect their reputation than to take action, call 911, as well, and seek the advice of an elder abuse attorney in your state.

Never try to go it alone in the legal system. If your loved one is being abused or you suspect elder abuse is going on, let the facility know, call the authorities, and hire an elder abuse attorney in your state. Only a qualified and experienced elder abuse attorney will be able to help you gather evidence, create a case, and defend the rights and physical safety of your loved one to the fullest extent of the law. Get a consultation today and take the first step down the road towards healing for you and your loved one.


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