Abuse can happen to anyone. However, our older adults are usually the most vulnerable to negligence, abuse, and exploitation. The number of elder abuse victims continues to increase year after year. In some instances, abuse can happen at nursing or assisted living facility, at a family member’s home, or even at the older person’s own home. The biggest problem is that abuse is many times silent – noticing if a loved one is a victim of abuse can be challenging. If you believe a loved one is being abused or neglected, there are ways to pursue this issue to make sure your family fights for their rights.
Understanding the Types of Elder Abuse
First, we have to look at the different types of elder abuse. With each type of abuse, our older loved ones can express their pain or respond to the trauma differently. It is important to remain alert, as changes in personality or physical condition can all be indications of elder abuse.
Often the most noticeable sign of elder abuse, physical abuse happens when an individual causes any form of bodily harm to an older person. In this case, the care provider might be hitting, pushing, slapping, or shoving your loved one, causing bruises, scratches, and in extreme cases, bone fractures. Another form is sexual abuse, which includes forcing an older adult to participate or watch sexual acts. An additional form of physical abuse deals with treatments and medication. In this case, a caregiver fails to provide a person with their medications, or follow through on medical treatments, diets, and so on.
Emotional or psychological abuse is often the hardest one to notice. For most family members to detect emotional abuse, they must be present when a caregiver expresses hurtful words, threats, yells, or repeatedly ignores the older person. Another form of emotional abuse is by keeping a person from seeing close friends or relatives.
Victims of elder abuse are very susceptible to being financially exploited. Common financial scams performed by caregivers include forging checks, claiming someone else’s Social Security benefits, using their credit card and bank accounts, etc. Financial abuse can even go as far as changing names on wills, life insurance policies, or a house title. Within the financial abuse, there also something called healthcare fraud. This type of abuse involves healthcare providers or hospital staff. This involved overcharging, falsifying Medicare claims, charging for care that was never provider, billing twice for the same service, and so on.
All of these types of abuse are forms of elder care negligence. Additionally, a family member, caregiver, or other health care providers can be negligent by not responding to the other person’s needs. These needs can be as basic as accompanying them to the restroom, or as complex as failing to administer medication.
Stay Alert for Common Signs of Elderly Abuse
Older people with disabilities, dementia, or memory problems are often the most vulnerable targets for abuse. While abuse can happen to anyone, people who are frail, who need assistance with daily activities such as dressing, taking medicine, and bathing are often the most targeted. As we mentioned, abuse signs can be difficult to notice. So, when you visit a loved one at home or in an assisted living facility, watch for signs such as:
- They are having trouble sleeping
- Seem confused, sad, or even depressed
- Has lost significant weight for no reason
- Acts agitated or violent to your physical advances
- Has stopped taking part in activities she or he enjoys
- Has bruises, scars, or burns she or he can’t explain
- Looks messy with dirty clothes or unwashed hair
- Develops bed sores or other preventable conditions
If you see any of these signs of abuse, try talking with your loved one to see if they will tell you what’s happening. The abuse may be coming from another resident, someone who works at the facility, or another family member.
Who Is Responsible for Reporting Abuse in Florida?
If you believe a loved one is a victim of elder abuse, there are several programs in place to help you. Of course, you should call law enforcement for immediate help if you believe something serious is happening. Other resources that offer assistance include:
- Adult Protective Services (APS): Social service programs that investigate reported suspicions about elder abuse or neglect of people living in the community.
- Long-term Care Ombudsman: Social service programs that investigate reported suspicions about elder abuse or neglect of people living in long-term care, such as a nursing home or assisted living facility.
You can also look at your state’s resource center for other agencies that respond to elder abuse cases. The National Center on Elder Abuse is another helpful resource for families with older adults in care facilities. One thing to consider is who is responsible for reporting the abuse to the authorities. In the state of Florida, these are the figures that should report elder abuse, according to the Florida Law Statute 415.1034(1) (A):
- Any person, including, but not limited to, any –
- Physician, medical examiner, chiropractic physician, nurse, paramedic, or hospital personnel engaged in the admission of older adults
- Health professionals and mental health professionals
- Nursing home staffs, assisted living facility staff, adult day care staff, adult family-care home staff, social worker, or other professional adult care, residential or institutional staff
- State, county, or municipal criminal justice employee, law enforcement officers
- An employee of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation conducting inspections of public lodging establishments under s. 509.032
- Florida advocacy council members or long-term care ombudsman
What Should I Do Next?
If you believe a loved one may be a victim of elder abuse, you have to fight for their rights. Elder abuse cases often involve legal issues, which is why working with a local adult protective service agency and a qualified attorney that understands nursing home negligence and elder abuse cases can help. Elder abuse cases are complex; you may find it helpful to seek legal advice and services. Continue to have open communication with your loved one, make them feel safe. At LJ Law Group, we believe the most vulnerable should have our utmost support and guidance. If you believe a loved one is being neglected or abused, contact us to schedule a complimentary consultation to help you fight for your family’s right and get them the care they deserve. When others fail to care for your loved ones, let us help you hold them accountable for their horrific actions.