As people age they often require the help of a caregiver to assist them with basic daily activities. Caregivers could be anyone from hired help, a family member or a close friend, and more often than not these people provide a caring and invaluable service to older persons who can no longer care for themselves. However, some caregivers take advantage of the vulnerability of the person they are caring for and either abuse, neglect or exploit them.
What is Elder Abuse?
Each state has its own specific definition of elder abuse, but generally this type of abuse can be broken down into two categories: domestic elder abuse and institutional elder abuse. Domestic elder abuse occurs when a person close to the victim either abuses, neglects or exploits them. This could be a spouse, child or close friend. Institutional elder abuse occurs when a caregiver in a residential facility mistreats an older person. This could be elderly abuse in nursing homes, retirement homes or group homes.
Elder Abuse Laws
Laws against elder abuse vary quite a bit from state to state, but most are built from the same basic foundation. These laws recognize abuse as either physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, exploitation, emotional abuse, abandonment or self-neglect, according to the Administration on Aging. If a caregiver, family member or other person is found to have exhibited any of these behaviors towards an elderly person, they could be charged with elder abuse and face criminal punishment. Elder abuse lawyers have expert knowledge on the different types of elder abuse and what specific laws govern the state they practice in.
How to Report Elder Abuse
Although an older person might not be upfront about experiencing elder abuse, common signs include bruises, mood changes, unexplained financial losses and changes in behavior. Anyone who suspects elder abuse should visit the National Center on Elder Abuse website or Eldercare Locator website to find state by state resources. These resources can help a person determine who to contact about the abuse and how to proceed with their concerns. If a person is in immediate danger, the police should always be contacted first.
Elder abuse is a serious crime, and thousands of older people suffer from this mistreatment each year. While our society still has a long way to go to end this type of abuse, understanding elder abuse and the signs of abuse can bring us one step closer.