As we age and certain everyday tasks become more difficult, we become more dependent upon the care of other people. These may be members of the family, in-home caregivers, or caregivers at a nursing facility. While many caregivers are skilled and dedicated, too often there are those who mistreat the people in their care. The result is that elder abuse is one of the most widespread forms of abuse.
Elder abuse generally falls into three categories that frequently overlap: physical, emotional, and financial abuse. Physical abuse can range from active harm by the caregiver to physical neglect. Emotional abuse may include intimidation through threats or yelling, routine humiliation, blaming or scapegoating, ignoring the elderly person, or terrorizing that person. Financial abuse can range from stealing the person’s money outright to misusing his or her credit cards and personal checks. Elderly people are especially vulnerable to telemarketing scams and identity theft. A lonely elderly person might crave attention, even from a stranger over the phone — leading him or her to give out personal information that the thief uses to steal credit card numbers and wipe out savings accounts.
Why is elder abuse so widespread? In many cases, unscrupulous people look to take advantage of those who are vulnerable. In other cases, care facilities may lack staff that is properly trained. Many family members also lack proper training and are generally overwhelmed by having to care for someone with significant physical and mental needs. Nonetheless, elder abuse is a crime and should be reported as quickly as possible. If you suspect an elderly neighbor of being abused, you can also find a California elder law attorney to obtain relief in a physical or financial abuse situation.
Here are the top 10 signs of elder abuse:
1. The person shows signs of physical trauma, such as burn marks, unexplained bruises and welts, and injuries that often don’t match the explanation.
2. The person acts withdrawn, depressed, and fearful to talk openly.
3. You cannot get in touch with the person because he or she is being isolated from the community, especially family or friends.
4. The person shows signs of poor personal hygiene, such as bad odor or dirty, matted hair.
5. The person shows signs of being malnourished, dehydrated, or of having an untreated medical condition.
6. The person’s living conditions are unsanitary.
7. The person’s bank account shows signs of withdrawals when the person cannot access the bank.
8. The person’s signature on checks and other financial statements does not match the person’s signature on other recent documents.
9. The person’s spending patterns change, resulting in the purchase of items the person does not need or normally would not buy.
10. The person’s will undergoes suspicious changes, such as changing the primary beneficiary to a caregiver who is not part of the family.
If you live in California and suspect that someone you know may be suffering from one or more of the above, don’t hesitate to report it to a trustworthy person or group, such as Adult Protective Services. You should also find an experienced San Diego elder abuse attorney to file a lawsuit against the abuser and help the abused person obtain relief. An attorney can obtain compensation for the person’s injuries, help recover investments, and correct wills that were changed as a result of fraud or undue influence. Elder abuse is a serious crime, so don’t wait to take action.