The study of elder abuse in the healthcare environment is difficult to quantify and address. Most cases likely go unreported, and the number that does get reported is close to 5 million and increases every year. There are many different types of abuse, each more devastating and cruel to think about than the last. The reality is that elderly people are not as well-equipped to defend themselves or understand what is happening in their surroundings.
One of the most crucial ways that family and friends can make a difference in the lives of elderly loved ones is to be present. Seeing your loved one first-hand and making judgement calls based on your own experience is the best way to understand if elder abuse is present and to take action against it.
It doesn’t matter how old someone is, what illness he or she suffers from, or how irascible he or she can be, no one deserves to be the victim of elder abuse. Seek the advice of a qualified and experienced attorney immediately if you suspect any form of abuse. Each successful prosecution in elder abuse cases makes the healthcare community a little safer. Consider that one person may have contact with dozens of patients a day and you will see the importance in stopping this criminal and abusive behavior.
Here is an overview of the types of abuse and signs that indicate the presence of elder abuse:
When your family member is cared for, either away from the home or in his home, it is possible that the caregiver will simply ignore or forget to fulfill all the duties required. From not changing linens often enough or not admitting that certain help is needed, family members and hired caregivers may be guilty of neglect. Other indications of neglect may include:
- Odors that indicate a person may not be getting the necessary routine cleaning care
- Weight loss associated with malnutrition
- Dirty dishes, linens, or other unsanitary conditions in the area
Neglect as a term may seem innocuous, but the effects of it on an elderly individual under someone else’s care can be devastating.
If you have access to an elderly person’s financial records and notice any unusual charges, suspicious withdrawals, or other indications in financial records, then you may be facing an abuse case. Any indicators that someone other than the elderly individual is using the accounts signal it’s time to immediately file a complaint with the caregiver’s employer and contact an attorney for more information about steps to take.
You may also notice a caregiver, friend, or other individual acting particularly gracious or friendly around an elderly individual. If this behavior and financial accounts both exhibit suspicious information, then financial abuse is a valid conclusion.
It is always good to have a family member serve as a patient advocate for elderly individuals. Reconciling accounts and paying attention to medicine regimens and treatment recommendations can all be clues signaling abuse. Even those who are not elderly or disabled are overcharged, wrongly medicated, and mistreated every day. Take action immediately if you notice any suspicious activities surrounding your loved one’s treatment in a healthcare facility.
Physical abuse may or may not be easy to spot. Bruises, scratches, body language indicating fear, and broken bones are all indicators of abuse. Force feeding and using restraints or medications in a way that is not consistent with medical guidelines is also considered abuse. Ask your family member routinely about the treatment he or she receives. Those with dementia who report acts of violence should be taken seriously until the allegations can be dismissed. Physical abuse is very serious and can lead to psychological trauma, loss of quality of life, and death.
Anything related to genitals, sexual acts, and sexual language that is non-consensual may be considered sexual abuse. Behaving in any way other than what is considered necessary for medical care and sanitation that involves sex is entirely inappropriate anywhere. Look for bruising, unexplained medical reports of sexually transmitted infections, stained underwear, and verbal reports from the elderly individual. All indicators of sexual abuse should be taken seriously and followed up on. No one deserves to be mistreated in such a profoundly intimate and dehumanizing manner.
While emotional abuse may be part of any of the previously discussed elder abuse types, it can also stand alone and be equally devastating. From intimidating and insulting the individual to more subtle abuse such as talking down to an elder or refusing to speak to him, all are considered forms of emotional abuse. Every individual interprets communication differently, and any behavior that is non-supportive or negative may be seen as emotional abuse. Look for the elder’s demeanor to become depressed, anxious, or distraught. Always take reports from an elder of emotional abuse seriously. Sometimes emotional abuse is a matter of a disciplinary action within a healthcare setting and sometimes it is grounds for legal action.
These types of abuses and their warning signs only represent a part of what may and can occur in a healthcare, home health, or home setting. Family members, physicians, nurses, and home health aides are a few of the individuals that may be responsible for inflicting the abuse.
If you hear any report of abuse from an elder or see signs that might indicate abuse, seek the legal counsel of California elder abuse attorney Joel Bryant. The only way to remedy the situation and receive the justice deserved is to take the matter to the judicial system. In most cases, the abusive actions will be considered criminal offenses. Depending on the level of offense, elder abusers can face death, life imprisonment, significant prison time, and/or thousands of dollars in fines in California.