This article provides an overview of elder abuse and elder abuse investigations.
What is Elder Abuse?
Hundreds of thousands of persons are abused, neglected, and exploited each year. Unfortunately, many victims are older, frail, and vulnerable people who cannot help or defend themselves and depend on others to meet their basic needs. Abusers of older adults are both women and men and maybe family members, friends, or professional care providers.
In general, elder abuse is a term that refers to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or severe risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Legislatures in all 50 states have passed some form of elder abuse prevention laws.
Various Forms of Abuse
Significantly, laws and definitions of elder abuse terms vary considerably from one state to another. Primarily, elder abuse investigations uncover the following types of problems:
Forms of physical abuse include someone inflicting physical pain or injury on a person. For example, this includes slapping, grabbing, hitting, or restraining by physical or chemical means.
Although it is difficult to detect, verbal abuse can cause serious mental damage in the form of fear, anxiety, loss of appetite, etc. Also, this includes Emotional Abuse. Emotional abuse includes inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elderly person through verbal or nonverbal acts (e.g., humiliating, intimidating, or using threatening language).
Sexual Abuse includes non-consensual sexual contact of any kind. This abuse is common in nursing homes when occupants are vulnerable due to their impaired physical or mental state.
Neglect is failing to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder. Neglect can be difficult to prove, as the health effects take a while to develop.
Exploitation includes the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit. A good private investigator can help expose those who are blackmailing or exploiting one of your friends or loved ones.
Abandonment is the desertion of a vulnerable elder person by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for the care or custody of that person. This leaves the seniors to try to take care of themselves. However, they may not have the mental, physical, or financial capacity.
Self-neglect is the failure of a person to perform essential self-care tasks, and such failure threatens his/her own health or safety. Unfortunately, it is very common when people reach a certain age that they “let themselves go.”
Warning Signs of Elder Abuse
If you have a loved one under someone else’s care, such as in a nursing home or even home healthcare, it is crucial to look for warning signs that may indicate patterns of abuse. Following are a few examples:
- Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment
- Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
- Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse
- Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation
- Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect
- Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse
- Strained or tense relationships and frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person are also signs.
- Be alert. The suffering is often in silence. If you notice changes in a senior’s personality or behavior, you should start to question what is going on
If someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911 or the local police for immediate help. Once you are sure they are safe, report the issue to all companies involved. In addition, file a formal complaint with the appropriate state agency.
Administration for Community Living (ACL)
The ACL advocates for older adults and their caregivers across the federal government. In addition, the ACL funds services and supports provided by states and networks of community-based programs. Visit the Administration for Community Living website.
National Center on Elder Abuse
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) is a national resource center dedicated to preventing elder mistreatment. The NCEA conducts research, develops tools, informs policy, and develops training and awareness materials. Visit the National Center on Elder Abuse website for more information.
National Institute of Justice – Elder Abuse Information
Information on elder abuse and elder neglect. It provides helpful resources, publications on elder abuse, and suggestions for getting help. Visit the National Institute of Justice website.
A Private Investigator may be able to help.
For help investigating nursing home abuse, neglect, or elder abuse, hire a local private investigator to investigate the facts. To find a private investigator specializing in elder abuse investigations, visit our Private Investigator Directory.