Area Agency on Aging Region IIIA
ELDER ABUSE AWARENESS
What is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse refers to the intentional or negligent acts by a caregiver or trusted individual that causes harm to a vulnerable elder. Elder abuse can take many forms including: Financial exploitation, physical abuse, neglect by a caregiver or self-neglect, verbal and emotional abuse, or sexual abuse.
What are the risk factors?
Elder abuse can happen to anyone and can occur anywhere - in a person's own home, in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, even in hospitals. It affects elders across all socioeconomic groups, cultures and races. More than two-thirds of elder abuse perpetrators are family members. Common risk factors include:
- The elder is socially isolated or withdrawn
- The elder is in poor physical health
- The elder has dementia, mental health or substance abuse issues
- The caregiver has mental health or substance abuse issues
- The caregiver was abused as a child, grew up in a household where violence was used to resolve disputes, or has a history of conflict with the older person.
- The caregiver is experiencing stresses such as marital conflict, unemployment, economic problems, or caring for both parents and children.
- The caregiver lacks experience and skills as a caregiver, does not understand the older person's disease, or has little support from other family members.
Identifying and reporting elder abuse
If you suspect elder abuse - report it:
(This is the 24/7 Statewide Abuse Hotline)*
Have the following information available
- Victim's name, address or location, approximate age, race and sex.
- Brief description of the victim's disability, infirmity.
- Signs or indications of abuse (see section below)
- Name, address, phone number of any possible responsible person (perpetrator) and their relationship to the victim.
- Your name, address and phone if you want to receive notification of investigation.
The identity of a person making a report is kept confidential. The reporter will be notified, in writing, that the referral has been received and is being investigated, or that the complaint is not appropriate and why.
*Contact Kelly Jonker, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, with questions about abuse in licensed long-term care facilities, (269) 373-5161.
How to identify the warning signs of abuse:
- Financial Exploitation:
- Lack of affordable amenities and comforts in an elder's home.
- Giving uncharacteristically excessive gifts or financial reimbursement for needed care and companionship.
- A caregiver has control of an elder's money but fails to provide for the elder's needs.
- An older adult has signed property transfers (power of attorney or will, for example) but is unable to comprehend what the transaction means.
- Physical Abuse:
- Inadequately explained fractures, bruises, welts, cuts, sores, or burns.
- Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases.
- Neglect (includes Self-neglect):
- Lack of basic hygiene or appropriate clothing.
- Lack of food.
- Lack of medical aids (ie: glasses, walker, dentures, hearing aid, or medications).
- Person with dementia left unsupervised.
- Person confined in bed is left without care.
- Home is cluttered, dirty, or in disrepair.
- Home lacks adequate facilities (stove, refrigerator, heating and cooling, plumbing, and electricity).
- Untreated bed sores or pressure ulcers.
- Emotional Abuse:
- Unexplained or uncharacteristic changes in behavior, such as withdrawal from normal activities, or unexplained changes in alertness.
- Caregiver isolates the elder (doesn't let anyone in the home or speak to the elder).
- Caregiver is verbally aggressive or demeaning, controlling, or uncaring.
For more information on Fraud and Scams, please check out "Fraud and Scams" on our Resources page.