Elder abuse is a grossly under-reported and devastating problem in our society. Our elders have the right to live without fear or added suffering, and all forms of abuse undermine this right.
Once an older loved one has come to the point where they need assistance in their daily lives, we must remain mindful of the care they receive and learn to recognize signs of any abuse they may suffer. The Senior Living Blog on the website A Place For Mom offers a solid overview of the signs of elder abuse and what to do about them.
Recognizing Elder Abuse
There are four basic classes of abuse: financial, physical, psychological, and neglect. Financial forms of abuse, which may take the form of theft or exploitation, might be noticed through missing checks or property, insufficient funds, unpaid expenses, or other unexplained financial problems.
Physical forms of abuse include direct physical harm as well as sexual abuse and domestic violence. These often, though not always, leave visible physical signs, including minor but unexplained cuts and bruises, major injuries like broken bones, or repetitive injuries.
Psychological forms of abuse include any psychological damage that arises from other forms of abuse as well as behavior that directly attacks the mental health of an elder, such as yelling, belittling and isolation. These may be more difficult to detect, but may include signs such as changes in behavior, fear of a certain caregiver, or worsening symptoms of existing mental illnesses.
Finally, neglect is a broad range of abuse in which the caregiver is failing to meet the needs of the elder, leaving them malnourished, failing to treat medical problems or keeping them in unsafe and unsanitary living conditions.
Responding to Abuse
The most important thing to do when you suspect abuse or neglect is to report it immediately. If an older loved one is in immediate danger, calling 911 is the most rapid way to get police and medical involvement and launch a necessary investigation. If you are unsure if what you are seeing is abuse, however, the Alabama Department of Human Resources has an Adult Protective Services website with contact information and a number of resources for concerned families.
Protecting our elders is a deeply important responsibility. In Alabama, not only can caregivers who abuse or neglect their patients be held accountable in criminal and civil court, but state law also holds accountable any health and care providers who suspect abuse or neglect and fail to report it.
If you have any concerns about the care of your older loved ones, we urge you to report it and then contact an experienced assisted living abuse lawyer who can work with you to identify and pursue options for your family.