The Shocking Increase in Physical, Emotional and Sexual Financial Elder Abuse in Washington - Stopping Abuse Cases

If you have an elder loved one, or are yourself elderly, you should know that incidences of elder abuse are on the rise in the US. Nearly six million senior abuse cases are reported each year – and the abuse can be physical, emotional, financial or even sexual (or any combination of these). In Washington state there are more than 15,000 abuse cases reported each year, but Adult Protective Services believe there are far more incidences that are never reported because the victim is ashamed or doesn’t have the opportunity to seek help.

Elder Abuse Is a Crime – Every Time

Every type of elder abuse is a crime. Sometimes the abuser is a family member but other times the perpetrator is a professional caregiver or facility that is paid to care for your loved one, but instead betrays your trust (and breaks the law) by abusing those in their care. What complicates elder abuse is that the victim may be unable to communicate what is happening to them or may be intimidated into not reporting it. If you have a loved one being cared for by others, you should familiarize yourself with the types and signs of elder abuse so you can protect those that are unable to protect themselves.

Elder abuse encompasses not only deliberate acts that caregivers or facilities perpetrate against those that rely on them for care but also acts of negligence or carelessness that result in harm. The six major categories of elder abuse committed by caregivers included, but are not limited to:

Physical abuse – This includes force of any type including striking, slapping, pushing, pulling or any other harmful physical actions. Threats of physical force are also abuse.

Emotional abuse – This can include yelling, insulting or belittling verbal language but also encompasses any threats, cruelty or other negative psychological conduct.

Sexual abuse – This includes any type of sexual contact between a senior and their caregiver. Even if consent is obtained or coerced, this is inappropriate (and illegal).

Exploitation – This can include any attempt to gain control over money, property or other assets of the elderly person. Fraud, theft and coercion are all covered under this category.

Neglect – This includes the caregiver’s refusal to provide care – whether it’s emotional or physical needs. This can mean denial of food, medical treatment or safety measures.

Abandonment – This can include deserting the elderly person when tasked with care, whether for a few minutes, hours or days.

Signs of Elder Abuse

There are a number of signs that your loved one may be a victim of elder abuse – but this list is not all encompassing and any suspicions you may have or any statements by the victim should never be ignored. Signs of elder abuse include (but are not limited to):

Marks on the body – Bruises, burns, blisters, red marks or tears in clothing may be signs of physical abuse – anything that may indicate rough treatment or excessive physical contact.

Unusual behavior – Withdrawing socially, abandonment of usual interests, sudden decrease in communication, increased fear or hostility may indicate physical or emotional abuse.

Marks near genitals/breasts – Redness, bruising or bleeding near the breasts, genitals or anus can indicate sexual abuse as can any symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease.

Bedsores and deterioration – Any increase in medical symptoms can indicate lack of care, as can unexplained weight loss, unkempt hair, nails or clothing or poor hygiene.

Changes in finances/documents – Changes in wills, deeds or decreases in account balances or increases in credit card balances or lines of credit are signs of exploitation.

Change in caregiver casino spiele behavior – If the person(s) providing care is unwilling to allow you to speak with your loved one alone, this can be a sign they are covering up elder abuse.

What Are the Causes of Elder Abuse?

In a caregiving setting, such as at a long term care facility, assisted living facility or retirement home, there are factors to be aware of and to screen for when choosing a facility or if you become suspicious that your loved one is being abused in any manner. The primary factor is poor hiring practices. Some facilities are so desperate for orderlies and other staff that they may not conduct thorough background checks or may employ felons or those with a history of violence.

Poor hiring practices also include failure to screen for illegal drug use not only in pre-employment, but on an ongoing basis. A high patient to caregiver ratio can encourage neglect or improper care, as can inadequate training and high staff turnover rates. Poor pre-employment screening can also result in hiring those who are not compassionate and lack the necessary empathy for dealing with those in need and who cannot care for themselves.

Who Is at Risk for Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is a unique crime because it cuts across lines of age, race and financial circumstances. Anyone who is older and relies on a caregiver or facility is at risk. Emotional, physical or sexual elder abuse can take place in the home, in a care facility, doctor’s office, hospital or senior center. Financial elder abuse can take place in person, over the phone, over the internet, via US mail or any conduit where a potential abuser can contact a vulnerable senior.

What Should You Do If You Suspect Abuse?

It is critically important that you never ignore signs of elder abuse. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, elders who are abused are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized, four times as likely to end up in a nursing home and three times more likely to die. Experts estimate that only one in six elder abuse cases are ever reported and this allows this disturbing trend of abuse to continue. Here’s what to do:

If there is immediate danger to the elderly victim, call 911 first.

If you suspect abuse, but there is no immediate threat to life, call (800) 562-6078 to report abuse at a long term care facility.

To report abuse in the home or a facility, you can call the Washington State abuse hotline at 866-ENDHARM.

Contacting these agencies will deal with the immediate safety concerns and trigger an investigation by Adult Protective Services – and hopefully an arrest where it is warranted – but there are also other concerns that should be addressed. Expert advice from an attorney is necessary to recover compensation for financial abuse or damages for other forms of abuse committed against elderly victims.

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