Sadly, elders are abused in America every day. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, between one and two million Americans over the age of 65 are mistreated, abused or taken advantage of by people on whom they depend for care every year. Many believe that figure may grossly under-represent the number of actual occurrences, as many elders are hesitant, or unable, to report abuse.
Elder abuse can take the form of physical, emotional or sexual abuse as well as neglect or financial abuse. Physical abuse can be anything from pushing or shoving to much more serious abuse such as restraining a patient or intentionally inflicting harm. Emotional abuse, while less obvious, can be just as devastating as physical abuse. A caregiver may lead an elder to believe that he or she is unwanted or unloved or may allow the elder to think that nobody has called or visited to inquire about his or her health. Allowing an elder to feel abandoned can be emotionally devastating. Just as children who are vulnerable are often more likely to become the victims of sexual abuse, so are elders who are less able to protect themselves from an attack. Neglect may be the most common form of elder abuse. Sometimes, not doing something can be as detrimental as doing something. Failing to give needed medication, failing to bath a patient or simply ignoring the cries of a patient are all ways in which elders are neglected. Finally, elders are highly susceptible to financial abuse. Many elders are forced, either from a practical standpoint or by a court, to turn over their financial affairs to someone else. The guardian then has free reign to take advantage of the elder’s finances in many cases. Elders are also more susceptible to con artists and others who prey on the kind nature of many elderly individuals.
Elder abuse is a crime in most states. If you believe that someone you love has been the victim of elder abuse, contact the authorities as soon as possible. You may also wish to contact an attorney who specializes in elder law for advice on how best to protect your loved one in the future.