Elder abuse involves the infliction of physical, emotional, or financial harm upon an elderly person that is no longer able to care for themselves. The abuser is usually an authority figure (such as a nurse or caregiver) or someone close with the abused (like a family member).
Elder abuse is, unfortunately, a widespread problem in New Mexico and nationwide, occurring in all 50 states and all major cities. Despite the best efforts of advocates and policy makers the phenomenon persists.
At an individual level, too many people are either a) unaware that the problem exists or b) unaware of how to stop it.
With that said, here’s how to spot elder abuse and what to do if you suspect it.
Knowing the signs
Some of the signs are obvious, and include cuts, bruises, and injuries on the victim’s person.
Other’s may be more subtle. For example, in many instances of abuse, the senior may act timid or hesitant in the presence of a certain care giver.
Abuse can also show up in the senior’s temperament. They may seem withdrawn or sad, perhaps even reluctant to engage in social activities. Relatedly, the abused may stop caring for their appearance and may exhibit poor hygiene.
Talk to the Senior
Although many victims may be shy to discuss their abuse openly, it’s important to let them know you’re there for them.
Ask them questions about how they’re feeling or if they’re having any problems. Pay close attention to their mannerisms and facial expressions; in many instances, they may be hesitant to talk openly about what they’re experiencing.
Talk to their loved ones
If you’re not related to the victim, it’s important to alert their family members that they’re being abused.
Because the abuser is so often a hired care giver or nursing home employee, only next of kin are capable of intervening. Once informed, they can remove the victim from the environment and alert the authorities.
File a Report
There are man advocacy groups, such as Adult Protective Services, that help abused elders. You can leave an anonymous report describing the situation so intervention can occur as soon as possible.
Elder abuse is such a heart-wrenching crime because it impacts some of our most vulnerable citizens.
Thankfully, victims have rights. An abused elder can file a lawsuit against their abusers which, if successful, could result in a significant financial award.
The first step is hiring an experienced elder abuse lawyer. They can evaluate your case, launch an investigation, and provide a vigorous defense of the victim’s rights.