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Elder Abuse: How to Prevent It, How to Spot It, How to Report It

Updated on November 27, 2012
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Every five seconds, an elderly person is abused. That amounts to 6 million cases of elder abuse per year, according to Elder Assistance Daily, an online resource on the subject. And those are just the cases that are reported.

The vulnerabilities associated with old age - physical and cognitive impairment, primarily - mean that seniors often must rely on others to meet their basic needs. When a caretaker is abusive, it may be difficult for the victim to report the abuse, given that he or she is dependent on this person and may be isolated from others in the family or friends who might help. Especially if the person has memory problems, dementia or Alzheimer's disease, complaints may go unheeded even when the person reaches out for help. It's important for everyone with an elderly loved one to be on the lookout for symptoms of abuse and to learn how to report it.


Signs of Elder Abuse

There are several different forms of elder abuse. They are:

• Physical abuse and neglect: Symptoms include slap marks; pressure marks; unexplained burns or bruises; cigarette burns; pressure ulcers; lack of medical care; malnutrition; dehydration; uncleanliness; and unexplained weight loss.

• Emotional abuse - Unusual behavior that cannot be explained by dementia or Alzheimer's disease or a physical malady, including withdrawal from normal activities and people; fear when a particular person is present; and unexplained changes in alertness.

• Sexual abuse - Bruising around the breasts an genital areas and unexplained sexually transmitted diseases.

• Financial abuse - Sudden alterations to wills, trusts and financial accounts; unusual bank withdrawals; loss of property; late bills; complaints about being unable to pay bills; sudden involvement, especially in financial affairs, by family members or others who have not normally been a part of the person's life; change of power of attorney; stating they have won a prize or the lottery; lots of unnecessary purchases they normally wouldn't buy.

If the person is being prevented by a caretaker from seeing family and friends and going out for usual activities that he or she is still capable of doing, that also may be a sign that something is amiss.


Reporting Elder Abuse

The elderly are most often abused by family members, such as adult children and spouses, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse, a branch of the U.S. Administration on Aging,

Again, this makes it even more difficult for the victim to get help, especially if he or she is physically or mentally impaired.

If you suspect someone you know is in immediate or life-threatening danger, call 9-1-1 right away. Suspected elder abuse can also be reported to the local law enforcement agency. The National Center on Elder Abuse website includes a comprehensive list of numbers on where to report elder abuse in each state. Go to http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/ncearoot/Main_Site/Find_Help/State_Resources.aspx. In addition, the Eldercare Locator hotline can be called for state specific information at 1-800-677-1116.

Prevention of Elder Abuse

Seniors can protect themselves from abuse by taking care of their health, going on regular doctor's visits, taking needed medications and eating a healthy diet. This can prolong the ability to take care of one's self and delay the need for a caregiver. Staying active in the community and maintaining regular contact with family and friends is also important, so that someone will notice any irregular behavior. Seniors should also become educated about their rights by visiting a trusted attorney before signing any documents.

Others who are concerned about elder abuse can help by visiting local senior citizens, checking to make sure they have food and other necessities, volunteering with a local senior center or agency, such as Meals on Wheels and not being afraid to speak up when they suspect abuse.

Another way to help is to encourage local nursing homes to join the Advancing Excellence in America's Nursing Homes Campaign, which aims to improve the quality of life for the 1.5 million seniors in nursing homes across the country. For more information, visit www.nhqualitycampaign.org.


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    • Crystal Tatum profile imageAUTHOR

      Crystal Tatum 

      4 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you for stopping by Diana. I imagine you run into all kinds of complicated and difficult situations in your profession.

    • Diana Grant profile image

      Diana Grant 

      4 years ago from London

      Beryl Clarke's story of elder abuse sounds terrible, but I note that she says that her husband's step-daughter was "cited" for elder abuse. If my knowledge of American law is correct in this respect, it means she has been "charged with the offence" (i.e. accused), not that she has been found guilty. The other alleged accomplices do not appear to have been charged with any crime.

      As an English solicitor, dealing with family law, wills and probate, I have come across several cases of financial abuse, and wills sometimes had to be overturned, or claims by undeserving family members refuted. Now retired, I am presently in contact with someone whose husband has been spirited away from her by his children, and both sides allege financial abuse against the other side. The circumstances are very close to what Crystal has described in her article.

    • Crystal Tatum profile imageAUTHOR

      Crystal Tatum 

      4 years ago from Georgia

      Hi Glenn. Not sure what went wrong either, but glad to know you are with us in the here and now!

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Crystal - me again. I just discovered your reply to my last comment from 14 months ago. You said there was another answer I gave that was dated 42 years ago. I seem to be lost in a space-time continuum. Just wanted to get back to you and thank you for your reply. But I am wondering what it was that got flagged as spam. I wonder if it was some kind of system glitch. Being 42 years off in time does indicate something went wrong. I don't think HubPages was around at that time. LOL.

    • Crystal Tatum profile imageAUTHOR

      Crystal Tatum 

      4 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks ologsinquito!

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 

      4 years ago from USA

      This is a great hub with a lot of good information if someone does suspect an elderly person is being abused. Voted up.

    • Crystal Tatum profile imageAUTHOR

      Crystal Tatum 

      5 years ago from Georgia

      Goodness, Beryl, what a tragic story. I'm so sorry for your experience. Looks like you've turned it into something positive, to help others, so that's great.

    • profile image

      Beryl Clarke Formerly Schleisner 

      5 years ago

      My deceased husband Grant David Schleisner SR 10/01/2011 86yrs old a WW2 Vet.Professor at UCLA and I suffered Ongoing Elder Disabled Abuse from 2008 to 2012. The perpretrators were some of

      Grant's family,step daughter, step grand daughter, and accomplices who terrorize us with toxic hazardous chemicals, poison and other. In

      our food, medictions, entire two bedroom apartment, my vehicle, clothing.

      I was not allowed to hide or tape up anything, it was busted open and

      contaminated with chemicals, grind glass. They denied us food, water,

      our medical aids. I had to trash so much food. Our computer was hacked every time they burglarized or apartment, and vehicle. Drugs were cooked in our apartment. A survelliance camera was installed unknow to us.

      The Hanford Police ignored my plea for help, the Landlord turned a blind eye, our doctor refused to give me a note to have some of the items items.. If I was not on top of most every thing, we would have died in that apartment. I installed 9 survelliance cameras which they

      destroyed. ADT was tampered with also an updated expensive camera.

      They stole, they damaged, we were injured by the Chemicals, I had food poisoning. We suffered psycological torture and so much more.

      These very sick Mental people were so filthy. They nused feces and filth

      all over our belongings. To this day I don't want to eat or drink, I just

      FORCE TO at times. Our lives were threaten. Lynda Schleisner Grant's

      step daughter were cited for ElDER ABUSEs on March 18th. They enter

      our apartment with pass keys, they stalked us. These first class bullies are very angry they did not finish their job.

      Beryl Clarke formerly Schleisner

      President and Founder

      Packing Heath on Elder Abuse.

    • Crystal Tatum profile imageAUTHOR

      Crystal Tatum 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      Wow, Glenn, that's incredible. I guess people can sue for anything these days, but I'm glad you won.By the way, you tried to answer a question I posed and for some reason, your response kept being flagged as spam. It also said you answered the question 42 years ago! So that's why your response never showed up. If you answered that question 42 years ago, we need to talk, because you would be a great interview!!

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      6 years ago from Long Island, NY

      There are many forms of elder abuse and, like you said, they're not easy to detect all the time. I had a difficult time finding aides for my elderly aunt in the last years before she died. One time I had to fire one of the aides for abuse. And would you believe she actually sued for being fired. But I won the case anyway in court. Elder abuse is definitely an important issue that needs attention and it's really good that you wrote about this. Voted up.

    • Crystal Tatum profile imageAUTHOR

      Crystal Tatum 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      I agree Billy. Most of us are where we are today because we're standing on a foundation built by the hard work of others, and those people deserve respect and honor.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Abuse of any form is unacceptable and deplorable. Thank you for writing about what is an ugly subject but one that needs to be spoken about. Well done young lady!

    • Crystal Tatum profile imageAUTHOR

      Crystal Tatum 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for reading Kitty. And best of luck with the nursing degree.

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 

      6 years ago from Summerland

      It is such a sad thing to know that this truly does happen every day...to people that are our loved ones and others. I've seen elders being neglected, their hygiene poor. It makes me want to be the one to help them. That's part of the reason that I'm going to school to be an RN. Awesome hub. Thanks for writing about this important subject. :)

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