As family members grow older, they may face issues with their health such as decreasing mobility and mental clarity. Eventually, our loved ones may need assistance through home-health care services with day-to-day tasks such as dressing, bathing, taking prescribed medicine, or paying bills. Some may need full-time assistance in an assisted living facility or full-time medical care in a nursing home. We hope that the caregiver is caring, attentive, and trustworthy. Unfortunately, it’s not always the case.
Elder abuse is the emotional, physical, sexual, or financial mistreatment of an elderly person, including neglect and abandonment.
Although reporting elder abuse to authorities may differ slightly from state to state, in general reports can be made to:
If you suspect an individual is being abused by a primary caregiver like a home-health aide or adult child, keep these things in mind:
Don’t confront the suspected abuser yourself: Unless you are prepared to place the individual in another form of care, this could end up putting them in more danger.
Strength in numbers: Other family members and friends may have the best chance of convincing an individual to seek alternative care.
Feeling shame can keep elder abuse hidden: It may be difficult to speak up, especially if the suspected abuser is a family caregiver. The earlier you intervene, the better the outcome will be.
If you are being abused or have been abused, or you know of someone who is, tell your doctor, a friend or a family member. You can also call Adult Protective Services for your state. It is important to know you don’t need to prove abuse to report it. It is up to the professionals to investigate any suspicions you may have.
Some Adult Protective Services reports can be done anonymously depending on your state. They may also protect the individual who makes the report from civil and criminal liability if the report was made in good faith. For medical professionals, the law protects those who report from professional disciplinary action. This is so physicians, nurses, and medical staff can report suspected elder abuse without fear of breaching privacy or confidentiality laws relating to the elder person’s medical records.
You may be asked the following questions when you contact your local Adult Protective Services office or social services agency. Include the following information in your report, according to FindLaw.com.
You’ll also be asked questions about your or the individual’s medical problems, what kinds of social support they have and whether you’ve personally seen incidents of yelling, hitting or abusive behavior. Ask the agency for an estimated timeline for their investigation and about the services they offer.
Often, abuse goes un-reported because individuals are scared of retaliation or think someone won’t believe them. It can be difficult to bring up the topic of abuse with a loved one. Keep these nine tips in mind before you speak with someone about abuse.