We were all young once, and we will all be elderly at some point too. Life is short; gray hair and moving more slowly will be here sooner than later. If we will all be old someday, then shouldn’t we all be standing up for those who are older today?
The elderly segment of our society is often the most vulnerable; they are often . But knowing what is happening, what to look for, and how to deal with it, is a step in the right direction. The more aware, the more proactive, the more perpetrators are punished, the less these unfortunate scenarios will become reality.
Types of Elder Abuse
Elder abuse refers to the intentional, knowing act by a caregiver or other individual that causes harm to the elderly individual or puts them in the position that they are likely to be seriously harmed. Elder abuse occurs in every state. Due to the prevalence of this systemic issue, each state has passed some type of elder abuse prevention law. There are a variety of different types of elder abuse, including the following:
Physical abuse is defined as physical force or violence that results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment; it can also include assault, battery, and inappropriate restraint.
The types of people who physically abuse the elderly can range to pretty much anyone who has contact with them, but the most common are those closest to them. It could be caretakers, adult children, older grandchildren, or so-called friends. Physical abuse may also be perpetrated by spouses or intimate partners in order to gain power and control over the victim. Although this is technically domestic violence, it is still a form of elderly abuse also. This is a good example of how elderly abuse can be committed by those who are elderly themselves. If one person is in the position to abuse the other—spouse or not—it should be stopped.
People who physically abuse the elderly are likely to be unmarried, often live with their victims, and are either unemployed or employed by the abused as a caretaker. There are many reasons why the elderly are abused. They are often the same reasons anyone is abused: power, dominance, fear of not being loved, to gain something, or out of frustration and anger.
Recognizing if your loved one is being physically abused is vital to stopping it. Since the elderly can be fragile, it may not take much for a punch to become a deathblow.
Signs may include external injuries, like cuts or bruises; or internal injuries like dislocations or broken bones. One should also keep an eye out of unusual injuries like burns, hand-shaped bruises, and missing patches of hair.
Another important warning sign is behavioral indicators. Recognizing how your loved one and the abuser interact with each other is important. If it appears that your loved one is scared of, nervous around, or timid in front of, their caretaker, child, or friend, start investigating immediately.
refers to humiliating, threatening, shaming, insulting, isolating, or intimidating an elderly individual through verbal means. Next to physical and sexual abuse, this type is one of the most damaging, especially since the effects can last for a long time.
Psychological abuse is the intentional infliction of mental or emotional anguish by threat, humiliation, or other verbal or nonverbal conduct.
Like all the other forms of abuse on this list, the perpetrators of emotional and psychological abuse may be adult children, other family members, caregivers, or so-called friends.
When an elderly person is isolated, and/or lacks social or emotional support, they are particularly vulnerable to this type of abuse. Like the other forms of abuse on this list, elderly people who have frequent visitors trusted family members checking on them, and a large social network is often less vulnerable. Perpetrators understand this and often aim their attacks at those who are helpless or receive infrequent visitors.
Like other forms of abuse, emotional and psychological mistreatment happens either for sadistic reasons (like making the abuser feel powerful) or for some sort of gain. We will cover this more, later in the article.
Warning signs that your loved one is being abused emotionally or psychologically can include both physical and behavioral indicators.
Another form of emotional or psychological abuse is involuntary seclusion. This involves restricting the elderly person’s freedom to interact with others for extended periods of time against their will.
This can be done in a subtle or blatant way. A subtle form might involve a caretaker refusing to help the person to the cafeteria or to their weekly card game. A more blatant form might include locking an elderly person in their room or refusing to visit them as punishment.
At times, involuntary seclusion is used in care facilities to help emotionally disturbed persons calm down. This would be used sparingly and delicately. All other circumstances are most likely abuse.
is a hard topic to talk discuss. Let’s face it, nobody wants to think about any of these scenarios, but sexual abuse can be particularly difficult. Although it’s not an easy topic, learning more about it can significantly help to protect your loved one. Those who are informed are more likely to notice something and more likely to intervene.
Sexual abuse of the elderly occurs when a perpetrator has non-consensual sexual contact with their abuser. It may also include watching or forcing the elderly person to undress, to watch the abuser masturbate, or to watch or talk about pornographic material.
Sex in retirement communities and assisted living facilities is much more pervasive than most people think. Often, elderly people are lonely, without a partner, or just plain bored. For these reasons, sex can be common in these places. However, if your family member lacks the mental capacity to make these decisions in any way, it’s abuse.
Perpetrators of sexual abuse are often caretakers (in a facility or in-home) or another facility resident. However, it can be any other person who has regular access to the abused.
It’s more common for victims to be women, however, older men are obviously not immune in any way. Likewise, individuals with physical or cognitive disabilities or those who lack social support are more vulnerable.
Physical indications that an elderly person was or is being sexually abused include:
Behavioral indicators of sexual abuse include:
Financial abuse references the exploitation of an elderly person’s assets, income, or other resources. This is a very common form of elderly abuse, since the elderly may be wealthy from a lifetime of saving, vulnerable from diminishing mental capacity, and/or trusting because of their reliance on others. The following are some of the more common types of financial abuse (cons, scams, and fraud are covered separately, in the next section).
Financial abuse of the elderly comes in many, many forms. It may include:
The elderly’s own family members are statistically more likely to financially exploit or abuse them. However, literally, any person could perpetrate any number of different crimes.
Another important factor in understanding who often perpetrates this type of abuse is situational. This means that people who are in certain situations are more likely than others to financially exploit the elderly. This might be:
Another common form of financial exploitation is the overcharging for services or products, deceiving a purchaser to gain a larger commission or more business, or using a position of trust or power to coerce an elderly person.
Like other forms of abuse, those who are isolated or have very little contact with a trusted caretaker are most vulnerable. Elderly people with children who are at odds, addicted to drugs, or in financial hardship are particularly vulnerable.
Insight into Elderly Financial Exploitation
The most obvious indication that your loved one is being taken advantage of or abused financially is obviously a lack of or disappearing of money or valuables. However, there may be less obvious signs and indicators, like:
Although it’s technically financial abuse or exploitation, fraud or scams are in their own category since they have unique features.
Elderly people are more susceptible to frauds and scams than other segments of society for the same reasons listed above regarding finances. Every day, scammers are devising new ways to separate people from their money.
Scams or fraud are acts of deception to take money from an unsuspecting person. This can be in the form of a con, scare tactic, or deception.
Confidence crimes, more commonly called cons, are the use of deception to gain a victim’s trust or confidence. This often done through convincing lying and well thought out stories. A scam that is currently popular involves a phone call from someone pretending to be the IRS. They are supposedly calling the victim as a courtesy to give them one last chance to pay their outstanding taxes (which they don’t owe) before they are arrested for the debt. The factor that really makes it so effective is that the con artist tells the person that the police are on their way to arrest them. This is often pulled this off by pretending they are on another line with the police
Fraud may also occur in the form of identity theft, which may involve the opening of credit cards, accessing of bank information, the opening of credit lines like mortgages, or even the committing of criminal acts using another’s personal information.
Another popular scam is the so-called “lonely heart scam” or “sweetheart scam.” This is pretty self-explanatory but can come in the form of a new romantic partner, best friend, or online relationship. Often one they gain their trust, they manipulate money out of them in a one time, quick scheme; or they play the long game and maneuver themselves into a position of financial gain when the elderly person eventually dies.
Warning signs are similar to those in the financial exploitation and abuse section above.
Most of the forms of abuse that are listed above come from intentional acts. Neglect of the elderly often centers on the failure to ensure the proper hygiene, feeding, nutrition, shelter, or healthcare by an individual in the position of caretaker. The neglect can be both, active—referring to behavior that is willful—or passive—in which the caregiver is unable to fulfill the elderly person’s needs because of .
Any person who relies on another for care is , however, those with extreme needs are particularly vulnerable. This is because certain conditions are particularly stressful for caregivers. This includes scenarios where one caregiver must take on responsibilities for extended periods of time, like having nobody to help them with someone who needs care 24/7 or for many years.
What to do about it
Family members who believe that their elderly loved one is being abused in some way should report the incident as soon as possible. Depending on the type of abuse, different authorities or people should be contacted.
Some common places or people to contact are:
If you believe that someone or someplace is abusing or allowing the abuse or neglect of your loved one, you should discuss the possibilities of a personal injury case with the skilled elderly abuse lawyer. The attorneys at Dolman Law Group have experience handling these types of cases in Florida, with a proven track record and passion for protecting those who cannot protect themselves.
These types of cases can be complex, however, having someone who understands your rights and the laws can make it significantly easier and more effective. Our team will fight to obtain the maximum amount of compensation possible for your loved one from every liable party.
We are committed to fighting for justice for injured elderly citizens and provide the highest quality of legal assistance in every case. To schedule a free consultation with one of our lawyers, call our office today at 727-451-6900 or send us an email through our online contact form.