The number of cases of aging adults being abused each year is close to 5 million. However, this number is based solely on reported cases and could be staggeringly higher. It is estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are actually reported. A helpful tool to ensure the safety of your loved one is a monitor camera. It can help keep a watchful eye while you are not able to be with them.
If you suspect someone you know is being abused, please contact the Adult Protective Services office in your area. If the adult is in immediate danger, call 911. More information is available from the Eldercare Locator online or by calling 1-800-677-1116.
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The Facts about Elder Abuse
Abuse can take many forms. It is not solely physical, but can also be emotional, financial, sexual or confinement. Generally the abuser is a family member. Usually, it is a male, but female family members are also know to cause abuse. Many times it is the adult child or spouse of the aging individual, however it can be other members of the family.
Occasionally, the abuser may be a paid caretaker. Though, this is not as likely. There are no federal regulations covering homecare agencies or workers. Basically, there is only broad standards for care covered by Medicaid waiver programs. Although, most states do require pre-employment background checks of workers. States are not required to check records in other states which leaves a large opportunity for oversight.
Additionally, only 15 states require agencies to conduct periodic in-home evaluations. This ensures workers are performing their jobs acceptably. Also, it provides an opportunity for the supervisor to observe potential signs of abuse.
Elder Abuse and Dementia, the facts:
Studies show that more than a third of people with dementia experience abuse. Usually, this is at the hands of their family members. Those with dementia may not be able to report the abuse. This is because they may not even remember that they have been abused. To learn more about Alzheimer’s and Dementia, click HERE.
Signs That Abuse may be Occurring
There are a few red flags to watch for to help keep your loved one safe. If you observe any of the following, it may be a sign that abuse is occurring.
- Skin tears
- Pressure sores
- Depressed or withdrawn
- More irritable or acting out irrationally
- Unclean or unkept
- Incompletely dressed
It is important to keep in mind that this can also be a very grey area. This is because as we age our skin naturally is less hydrated and fragile. If you notice markings on a regular basis and there is no logical explanation for them or they seem suspicious then it may be time to act.
What Help is Available:
It is important to choose a licensed agency to work with. This is so that you can be sure those standards are being enforced.
AARP is working on several angles with state legislatures to help families. This is so you can avoid unwittingly hiring an unqualified aide to help your older loved ones. These efforts include:
- Preserving and strengthening state adult protective services agencies
- Adopting legislation to help prevent, detect or report and address financial exploitation of older people
- Increasing criminal and civil penalties against perpetrators of financial exploitation
- Amend the definition of “elder abuse” to include financial exploitation
Luckily, most states do have penalties for perpetrators. Additionally, training for law enforcement and prosecutors on elder abuse is becoming more widespread nationally.
Sources: AARP, National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA)