As the number of older adults increases, so does the risk of elder abuse -intentional or negligent acts that cause harm or serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. The most obvious aspect of elder abuse is the infliction of physical pain or injury, but elder abuse includes much more than that. It can be verbal abuse, neglect of essential needs, financial exploitation, or simply the threat of physical injury.
The most common abusers are family members, often an adult child or a spouse. Caregivers, whether family members or professional health care workers, are also often abusers. Professionals with a legal duty to act in the best interest of a client, like investment advisors, lawyers and accountants, can use their positions of trust for self benefit. And of course, there are always con artists with fraudulent schemes and services.
What can be done to protect vulnerable elders? If you have a family member, a neighbor or a friend who is elderly, you can help protect that person by being alert for signs of abuse.
The most obvious signs of physical abuse are bruises, black eyes, broken bones, open wounds. Other things that could be signs of physical abuse are broken eyeglasses, torn clothing, or medication overdose.
Signs of emotional abuse include agitation, being extremely withdrawn and non-responsive, depression, lack of interest in daily activities, isolation, or excessive willingness to please.
Symptoms of neglect include thirst, weight loss, bed sores, poor hygiene, unsafe or unclean living conditions.
Signs of financial exploitation include sudden changes in bank accounts, unexplained withdrawals, unusual ATM activity, sudden changes to a Will, unpaid bills, unusual gifts, or confusion when discussing finances.
The refusal by a caregiver to allow visitors to see the elder alone should raise suspicion of abuse.
What should you do if you believe you have seen signs of elder abuse? If it’s an emergency situation, call 911. Otherwise, call Adult Protective Services at 866-552-4464 or file a report online at the Department of Human Services. Our vulnerable seniors need families, friends and neighbors to be on the alert for signs of elder abuse.
If you need support in helping to financially protect the assets in the lives of elders you know, then please feel free to contact our office today and schedule an appointment . We can help develop the right estate plan to make sure all your loved ones are protected.