As our population ages, many families find the need to hire caregivers to assist with the care of their loved ones when they become ill, incapacitated or otherwise in need of regular assistance. Although there are many wonderful caregivers, there are just as many who are not. Some studies suggest that up to 10 percent of the elderly population that receive caregiving suffer some form of elder abuse. Unfortunately, many instances go unreported, so elder abuse might be even more common.
“Elder abuse” refers to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Elder abuse might include any or all of the following:
- Physical Abuse – Inflicting, or threatening to inflict, physical pain or injury on a vulnerable elder, or depriving them of a basic need.
- Emotional Abuse – Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts.
- Sexual Abuse – Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
- Exploitation – Illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a vulnerable elder.
- Neglect – Refusal or failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care or protection for a vulnerable elder.
- Abandonment – The desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
Signs of abuse can be hard to spot, but here are a few to look for if you think something is going on:
Signs of Physical Abuse
- Unexplained signs of injury, such as bruises, welts, or scars, especially if they appear symmetrically on two sides of the body
- Broken bones, sprains, or dislocations
- Report of drug overdose or apparent failure to take medication regularly (a prescription has more remaining than it should)
- Broken eyeglasses
- Signs of being restrained, such as rope marks on wrists
- Caregiver’s refusal to allow you to see your loved one alone could signal that the caregiver is trying to keep you from seeing visible marks and bruises.
Signs of Emotional Abuse
- Threatening, belittling, or controlling caregiver behavior that you witness
- Behavior from your loved one that is common in abuse victims such as rocking, sucking, or mumbling to oneself
Signs of Sexual Abuse
- Bruises around breasts or genitals
- Torn, stained, or bloody clothing
- Unusual weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration
- Untreated physical problems, such as bed sores
- Unsanitary living conditions: dirt, bugs, soiled bedding and clothes
- Being left dirty or unbathed
- Unsuitable clothing or covering for the weather
- Unsafe living conditions (no heat or running water; faulty electrical wiring, other fire hazards)
- Desertion of the elder at a public place
Significant withdrawals from your loved one’s accounts
- Sudden changes in the their financial condition
- Items or cash missing from the their household
- Suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and policies
- Addition of names on signature cards
- Unpaid bills or lack of medical care, although there is enough money to pay for them
- Financial activity your loved one couldn’t have done, such as an ATM withdrawal when the account holder can’t go out on his/her own
- Unnecessary services, goods, or subscriptions
Governments are trying to solve the issue of elder abuse with recommendations of cameras in the elder’s room. This approach however robs the person of their privacy which is abuse in and of itself.
Focus Investigations offers services to investigate suspected elder abuse through the use of comprehensive background checks, caregiver “spot checks” and short or long-term surveillance. If you notice anything suspicious or you have a feeling something is not right with your loved one, contact us and let us help.