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Elder Abuse: How many are affected and who are the abusers?

The National Council on Aging reports that approximately one in ten seniors over the age of 60 have experienced some form of elder abuse. The term itself is very broad and encompasses physical, sexual or emotional abuse along with financial exploitation, neglect and abandonment. What are some of the warning signs?

To identify elder abuse, it is important to know who is often behind it. Sadly, in 60 percent of elder abuse and neglect cases, the person responsible is a family member – often an adult child or their spouse. Staff at assisted living or nursing homes may also be the perpetrators.

Common warning signs

Signs of abuse are often hard to identify. An older relative or friend might even lie about it to avoid further abuse or embarrassment.

Signs of physical abuse and neglect may include:

  • Unexplained bruising, pressure marks, broken bones or burns
  • Bedsores or rashes
  • Dirty living conditions
  • Mood swings, emotional reactions without explanation or anxiety

You should ask questions and loop in a doctor and an elder law attorney if you notice any of the above. Some of these could be related to staffing shortages at a skilled nursing facility from budgetary pressures or lack of qualified applicants. High staff turnover is another risk factor. 

In cases of financial exploitation, missing property or unexplained withdrawals from investment accounts should be cause for concern. Social isolation and memory loss from dementia or Alzheimer’s can leave an older person more vulnerable to scams or pleas for help from caretakers who might have financial problems.

If you notice any of these signs, you need to investigate what is behind the change. There are usually options available. Find out what they might be for your specific situation, sometimes they require looping in law enforcement to get back lost money or a lawsuit to fix policies that allowed for an unsafe situation at a care facility.

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