Our Doylestown Injury Attorney Works to Help Prevent Elder Abuse

September 23, 2020

Elder abuse includes the physical, emotional, or sexual harm inflicted upon an older adult, their financial exploitation, or neglect of their welfare by people who are directly responsible for their care. 

It has been estimated that:

  • As many as 5,000,000 elders are abused each year.
  • One in 10 elders over the age of 60 has been abused.
  • As many as 24.3% of residents experienced at least one instance of physical abuse while in a nursing home.
  • Only one in 14 incidents of elder abuse are formally reported.
  • The New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study suggests this number is even more severe, with only 1 in 25 cases of abuse reported.
  • These figures are low, as many elder abuse victims are unable or unwilling to report their abuse.
  • Data from Adult Protective Services (APS) indicates a rising number of reported abuses in recent years.

If you suspect that a loved one is the victim of elder abuse in Pennsylvania, let a Doylestown injury attorney help.

Types of Elder Abuse

The National Center on Elder Abuse distinguishes between seven different types of elder abuse:

  1. Physical Abuse. The use of physical force that results in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment.
  2. Sexual Abuse. Any kind of non-consensual sexual contact with an elderly person.
  3. Emotional Abuse. Any verbal or non-verbal acts that inflict anguish, pain, or distress.
  4. Financial/Material Exploitation. Illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property, or assets.
  5. Neglect. The refusal or failure to fulfill any part of a person’s obligations and/or duties to an elderly person.
  6. Abandonment. Desertion of an elderly person by anyone who has physical custody of the elder or has assumed responsibility for providing care to the elder.
  7. Self-Neglect. Behaviors of an elderly person that threaten the elder’s health or safety.

Signs of Elderly Abuse

It is critical for family members to be aware of the signs, often quite subtle, of elder abuse. An article in HelpGuide identifies the following warning signs:

Physical Abuse

  • The caregiver’s refusal or reluctance to allow you to see the elder alone.
  • Signs of being restrained, such as ligature marks.
  • Unexplained signs of injury, including bruises, welts, or scars, especially if they appear symmetrically on both sides of the body.
  • Broken eyeglasses or frames.
  • Broken bones, sprains, or dislocations.
  • A report of drug overdose or an apparent failure to take medication regularly; e.g., prescriptions last longer than they should.

Sexual Abuse

  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing.
  • Bruising around breasts or genital areas.
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding.

Emotional Abuse

  • Threatening, belittling, disparaging or controlling caregiver behavior.
  • Elder behavior that mimics dementia, such as sucking, rocking, mumbling, or talking to themselves.

Neglect or Self-Neglect

  • Being left unbathed and/or dirty.
  • Unsuitable or inadequate clothing for the weather.
  • Unsafe living conditions, such as no heat, no running water, or fire hazards.
  • Desertion of the elder.
  • Unusual weight loss, dehydration, or malnutrition.
  • Untreated physical problems, quite often bed sores.
  • Unsanitary living conditions, such as dirt, soiled bedding and clothes, bedbugs, and other vermin.

Financial Exploitation

  • Significant withdrawals from the elder’s bank accounts.
  • Sudden changes (for the worse) in the elder’s financial condition.
  • Cash or valuables missing from the senior’s living space.
  • Suspicious changes in wills, power of attorneys, titles, and insurance policies.
  • Addition of names to the senior’s various financial assets.
  • Financial activity the senior couldn’t have undertaken, such as an ATM withdrawal when the account holder is bedridden.
  • Unnecessary services, goods, or subscriptions.

Healthcare Fraud

  • Duplicate billings for the same medical services or devices.
  • Evidence of overmedication or under-medication.
  • Evidence of inadequate care when bills are paid in full.
  • Problems with the care facility, such as poorly trained, poorly paid, or insufficient staff; crowding, or inadequate responses to questions about care.

Preventing Elder Abuse

If you are a caregiver for an elderly loved one, it is incumbent upon you to look out for his or her best interests. The elderly who are at risk for abuse simply can no longer look out for themselves. There are steps you can take to help prevent the abuse of an elderly loved one, including:

  • Listen to Them. Believe Them. Do not dismiss an elderly person who complains of neglect. Look into it carefully. Far too often, the elderly are ignored in serious cases of abuse. Furthermore, refusing to listen to an elderly loved one may discourage them from speaking up about potential future issues.
  • Carefully Review Elderly Care Facilities. Anyone considering an elderly care facility for a loved one should look carefully for signs of poor care quality, including understaffing and/or unsanitary living conditions. They should also be aware that price, appearance, and online ratings may not guarantee the quality of care.
  • Make Regular Contact. When you visit frequently, it will be easier to see signs of poor care. It may also be easier to gauge the mood of an elderly loved one, which is an important indicator of the quality of care. If frequent visits are not possible, keep in touch over the phone or other methods.
  • Watch for Signs of Neglect or Abuse. Simply being aware of the warning signs of neglect and/or abuse is perhaps the most important single thing you can do to identify and prevent neglect and/or abuse.
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Take Action. It can be awkward to accuse an elderly care facility of neglect and/or abuse. The facility personnel will likely deny anything damaging and will likely respond with righteous indignation or even anger. Be strong and remember what’s at stake. Also, be aware that your best option may be to relocate your elderly loved one. Also, be sure to report what you’ve seen to the authorities, or immediately contact a Doylestown injury attorney. Otherwise, you put other elderly persons at risk.

Contact a Doylestown Injury Attorney for Help With Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is a very serious, often under-reported problem. If you suspect that an elderly loved one may be subject to elderly abuse, do not hesitate to contact a Doylestown injury attorney at Drake, Hileman & Davis for assistance. They are familiar with elder abuse law and will protect your loved one’s interests.

Contact us for further information and to schedule your free consultation.