What Is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse is an all-too-common problem. Elders are vulnerable to abuse when they need to rely on caregivers such as family, friends, or nursing home staff.
Caregivers are supposed to help seniors live their best lives — but some make things much worse by harming a senior, neglecting their needs, or stealing their money and valuables. The most devastating cases of elder abuse result in permanent injuries or death.
Up to 5 million older people are abused every year, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA). Further, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports higher rates of elder abuse in nursing homes than in community settings.
Elder abuse is never acceptable, yet it still happens every single day. Thankfully, you can seek justice and compensation if your loved one suffered from elder abuse in a nursing home. Get started now with a free case review.
Causes of Elder Abuse
Caring for older people can be emotionally taxing and stressful — even for trained professionals. This can cause caregivers to make mistakes or take their frustrations out on the very people they need to care for.
For example, relatives who are forced into a caregiving role may abuse or neglect older adults if their relationship with them is strained.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also notes that nursing home staff may be more likely to commit abuse due to issues like a lack of well-trained staff, burnout, and a high-stress work environment.
Remember, though: there is never a good reason for nursing home staff members or other caregivers to abuse older people. Those who abuse elders need to be brought to justice.
Types of Elder Abuse
There are several forms of elder abuse. While some types of abuse may not leave physical marks, all of them can greatly harm older people.
Common types of elder abuse include:
- Neglect: Ignoring an older person’s personal needs
- Physical abuse: Punching, kicking, shoving
- Sexual abuse: Unwanted kissing, fondling, or rape
- Emotional abuse: Yelling, name-calling, or using slurs
- Financial exploitation: Stealing money or other things of value
Older people may suffer from more than one type of elder abuse at the same time. For example, elders who are sexually abused may also suffer from physical and emotional abuse.
Signs of Elder Abuse
Since there are many types of elder abuse, signs that an older person has been abused can vary. It’s important for loved ones to understand the many possible signs of elder abuse to protect older people.
Signs of elder abuse can include:
- Bedsores (also known as pressure ulcers)
- Broken bones or sprains
- Cuts, bruises, and/or scrapes
- Dehydration or malnutrition
- Lack of prompt medical care for health issues
- Medication overdoses
- Poor hygiene (dirty clothes and/or hair)
- Strange emotional changes (anxiety, fear, social withdrawal)
- Unexplained falls
- Weight loss
If you notice any signs of elder abuse while your loved one is living in a nursing home, contact our team today. You can pursue justice and compensation to keep your loved one safe.
Elders at Higher Risk of Abuse
While any older person can suffer from elder abuse and neglect, some are at a higher risk than others.
Those at a higher risk of elder abuse include:
- Dementia or Alzheimer’s patients: The NCOA notes that nearly half of all people with dementia suffer from abuse.
- Those in poor health: The WHO, Cornell University, and the University of Toronto all note that older people in poor overall health are at a greater risk of abuse. Further, the NCOA reports that older people with disabilities are also more likely to suffer from person-on-person violence.
- Women: According to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health, women suffer from elder abuse more often than men do.
Other elder abuse risk factors include social isolation, a lower income or economic background, being over the age of 65, and having suffered abuse in the past.
Effects of Elder Abuse
Elder abuse has devastating effects on victims and their loved ones.
Consequences of elder abuse include:
- Disabilities: Some physical injuries or illnesses that stem from elder abuse (such as bedsores or broken bones) can take months or years to heal from. In some cases, older people may become permanently disabled due to the harm they’ve suffered.
- Financial ruin: Elder financial abuse can leave older people that are trying to pay for food, housing, and medication penniless. Most elders do not have the opportunity to earn new income and rely on their savings to survive.
- Medical bills: Elders and their family members may face expensive medical bills due to injuries stemming from abuse or neglect.
- Job loss: Family members or relatives may need to quit their job to provide temporary or full-time health care to an older loved one who was abused.
- Psychological distress: Victims of elder abuse are more likely to become depressed, fearful, or anxious. As a result, they may isolate themselves or even attempt suicide. Knowing that an older loved one has suffered from elder abuse can also place a lot of stress and guilt on their family.
- Death: The worst cases of elder abuse can cause or contribute to an older adult’s death.
All forms of abuse can have awful consequences, so it is important to quickly get help if you suspect abuse has occurred.
We can help if your loved one suffered nursing home abuse or neglect. Get started with a free case review.
Preventing Elder Abuse
The most effective way to stop elder abuse is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
A few ways to prevent elder abuse include:
- Checking in with an older person often and listening to what they need
- Helping older people run errands and manage appointments
- Reporting possible cases of abuse as soon as possible to authorities
- Offering to help and support caregivers to prevent burnout
- Seeking immediate aid if an elderly person has mental health impairment or an addiction
- Teaching yourself and loved ones how to spot signs of elder abuse
How to Report Elder Abuse
Elder abuse often goes unreported. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), just 1 in 25 cases is reported.
Thankfully, there are many ways to report elder abuse and keep older loved ones safe.
You can report elder abuse and mistreatment to:
Calling 911 is key in an emergency situation. Law enforcement can also open a criminal investigation in severe cases of elder abuse or neglect.
Adult Protective Services (APS)
APS is a support system for older people and other vulnerable adults. The APS has branches located in every state, as well as Guam and Puerto Rico. You can call local APS elder abuse hotlines to file a report and protect your elderly loved ones.
Long-Term Care Ombudsmen
A long-term care ombudsman is an advocate for older people living in long-term care facilities. They can address any residents’ complaints, ranging from food quality to cases of nursing home abuse and neglect, and will work to resolve them.
Elder Abuse Attorneys
Once you’ve reported elder abuse to 911 or a senior advocacy organization, it may be wise to contact a nursing home abuse lawyer.
These specialized attorneys can help you get financial aid and justice from those that harmed your loved one. Some lawyers have awarded over $1 million for families in past cases.
It’s important to know that you may have to report elder abuse on behalf of an older person. Older people may not want to report out of embarrassment or fear that the abuser will retaliate, among other factors.
Further, residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s may not be able to report abuse on their own.
Take action against elder abuse in nursing homes. Call (855) 910-6243 to get connected with top elder abuse attorneys.
Elder Abuse Legal Options
It’s horrifying to learn that an older person you love has suffered from elder abuse — and the consequences can be terrible. Fortunately, you can start to rebuild after elder abuse with legal help. Start now with a free case review.
Nursing home abuse law firms deeply understand the issues facing your family, and their attorneys will work with you to hold abusers financially responsible.
Nursing home law firms can:
- Build and file a nursing home abuse lawsuit on your behalf
- Represent you throughout the legal process
- Work to get the most amount of money possible
Remember: past elder abuse cases have sometimes awarded over $1 million. This life-changing compensation can cover medical bills, funeral costs, and any other expenses that stem from the harm done.
FAQs About Elder Abuse
How many older Americans suffer abuse?
It’s believed that up to 5 million older Americans suffer from abuse or neglect every year. The exact numbers are hard to pinpoint as elder abuse often goes unreported.
Who commits elder abuse?
Almost anyone can commit elder abuse, such as strangers, the staff of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, hired home caregivers, friends, and even family.
In fact, the NCOA notes that family members are the abusers in nearly 6 out of 10 cases. Resentment, fatigue, and stress are common complaints of individuals who are not physically or emotionally prepared to be care providers.
What is the most common type of elder abuse?
The WHO notes that emotional abuse was the most common type reported by both older people and staff members in nursing home settings. Sexual abuse was the least common type.
How can attorneys help me after elder abuse occurs?
Elder abuse attorneys can help you and your family hold abusive caregivers accountable by filing nursing home lawsuits.
These lawsuits will demand that the abusers (typically the nursing home and its staff) pay financial compensation for harming your loved one.
Attorneys also understand how elder abuse laws may impact your case. The U.S. has laws like the Older Americans Act and the Elder Justice Act to protect older people.
All states also have laws called statutes of limitations that limit the amount of time you have to file an elder abuse lawsuit. Attorneys can ensure that your case is filed before time runs out.