Mistreatment of the elderly is a widespread problem in the United States, and all 50 states have passed laws attempting to prevent it. Unfortunately, however, the problem often goes unreported because abused seniors are either unable to report it or are reluctant to do so.
Compounding the problem is the fact that abuse can take several different forms. Physical abuse is perhaps the easiest to detect and report because of the evidence left behind in the form of bruises, cuts or scars. Other forms leave signs that may not be as obvious.
1. Emotional abuse
According to the Administration for Community Living, emotional abuse involves acts of a threatening, intimidating or humiliating nature against an elder person. These acts can be verbal or nonverbal, but the result is that the individual experiences anguish, distress or mental pain as a result. While emotional abuse does not leave physical signs, it may result in uncharacteristic behavioral changes.
Exploitation occurs when someone close to an elder person gains control over his or her money or property through unlawful practices such as undue influence, fraud, misuse or theft. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, signs of financial exploitation of an older person include fraudulent signatures on financial documents, sudden changes to a will or unusual changes in a bank account.
3. Neglect or abandonment
Abandonment occurs when someone responsible for an elder person’s custody and care deserts the vulnerable individual. Neglect occurs when the responsible person is present but does not provide for the individual’s basic needs.
Anyone who has reason to believe that an elder person is receiving abusive treatment has a responsibility to report it to the proper authorities.