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Each year thousands of our most vulnerable are exploited, abused, or neglected by those who are charged with their care. Unfortunately, it is those who are most vulnerable and who depend on others who are at the highest risk of elder abuse.
If you have a loved one or friend who has been the victim of an intentional or neglectful action by a hospital, nurse or caregiver and has suffered serious harm or injury you can help. Not only is elder abuse wrong, it is also illegal in every state.
Due to the differences in state laws if you suspect your loved one is the victim of elder abuse you should talk to a personal injury lawyer. General definitions of elder abuse, however, can include the following:
Sexual abuse includes any type of non-consensual sexual contact between a patient and their caregiver, including a medical healthcare worker, nurse, or doctor. Signs of sexual abuse can include any type of bruising in the genital area or around the breasts, infections, anal or vaginal bleeding, and venereal disease.
Any unexplained changes in behavior such as depression, arguments between caregivers and patients, strained relationships, or withdrawal from normal activities should be investigated.
Physical abuse includes any type of physical injury caused by neglect or an intentional action. Actions can include hitting, pushing, shoving, slapping, kicking, or pinching. Common injuries due to physical abuse can include burns, abrasions, black eyes, welts, lacerations, pressure marks, bruises, sprains, dislocations, skull fractures, or broken bones.
Emotional abuse includes the verbal and nonverbal abuse of an elderly person which causes distress or emotional pain. Verbal emotional abuse can include threats, arguments, ridicule, humiliation, yelling, blaming, verbal assaults, and verbal harassment.
Although verbal emotional abuse may be more common or readily recognized, nonverbal emotional abuse can also be devastating. Nonverbal emotional abuse can include ignoring the elderly person, isolating them from activities, friends, or family, and terrorizing or menacing them.
Unlike physical abuse, which can be more easily detected, emotional abuse may be more difficult to identify. Possible indications of emotional abuse can include agitation, unresponsiveness, being non-communicative, or other unusual behaviors.
If you have witnessed or suspect that an elderly person is being emotionally or psychologically abused and the abuse is causing emotional pain or distress, it is time to act.
Negligence is a failure to perform one's duties or standard of care. Neglecting an elderly patient can be physical neglect, which includes a failure to provide the necessary medications, food, water, clothing, shelter, hygienic care, or comfort. It can also include a failure to perform one's financial responsibilities, which includes mismanagement of one's fiduciary responsibilities, or emotional neglect, which can include isolating the patient, ignoring them, or not providing adequate socialization.
Signs that a loved one may be the victim of neglect can include bedsores, unexplained weight loss, malnutrition, poor personal hygiene, unsafe living conditions, unsanitary living conditions (bugs, soiled linens, lice or fecal matter present) or untreated medical conditions. Signs of emotional neglect can include depression, silence, or change in mood.
Exploitation is the confiscation, concealment, or misuse of the personal property, assets, money or possessions of an elderly person for the benefit of another person. Exploitation is illegal and considered not only elderly abuse but also a serious crime.
Common financial exploitative actions can include stealing money, cashing an elderly person's pension funds without permission, forging signatures, withdrawing large sums of money from an elderly person's checking or savings accounts, using their credit or debit cards without permission, coercing them to change their wills or beneficiary information, transferring their assets to an authorized person, or abusing the powers of attorney, guardianship, or conservatorship.
Self-neglect can occur when an elderly person does not have the mental or physical capability to care for themselves and no other relative or friend steps in to help them. Self-neglect occurs when the elderly person has a sound mind and understands the consequences of their actions but continues to choose actions which threaten their own health.
Signs of self-neglect are similar to the signs of intentional neglect from the actions of others: malnutrition, dehydration, inadequate personal hygiene, unsafe living conditions, unsanitary or unclean living quarters, inadequate dress, homelessness, inadequate health care, and lack of necessary medical aids such as dentures, eyeglasses, a wheelchair, a walker, or hearing aids.