As some point in your life, you are likely to have an elderly loved one who is unable to fully care for himself or herself . As people in the United States live longer, the population of people over the age of 65 continues to increase. Many people now live into their 80s and 90s with a great deal of independence. Even those who are relatively independent, however, eventually need some type of assistance in most cases. Others may need full-time care because of medical conditions that prevent them from being able to lead an independent life. For loved ones, this often means depending on medical caregivers or other family members to care for the individual. Sadly, this leads to elder abuse more often than most people realize.
The prevalence of elder abuse in the United States is difficult to accurately determine due to the fact that a large percentage of the abuse goes unreported. Many victims are scared to complain, much less officially report an incidence of abuse for fear of reprisals from the caregiver who is abusing them. Additionally, until fairly recently, most states did not have laws that specifically addressed elder abuse. The good news is that most states do now have laws that make the various forms of elder abuse a crime. Loved ones may also have the option to file a lawsuit against the individual or organization that is responsible for the abuse.
If you suspect that someone has been abusing a loved one, you should act immediately. Try talking to your loved one; however, don’t be dissuaded if he or she is reluctant to admit the abuse. Shame, fear and confusion may all lead to a less than forthcoming admission. Gather any readily apparent evidence of the abuse when possible. If your loved one is at a long-term care facility, speaking with an administrator or supervisor may help; however, in some cases they are already aware of the neglect or abuse and your complaints may fall on deaf ears. Take your suspicions to the authorities as soon as possible. Finally, consult with an elder law attorney to ascertain what additional options and recourse you may against the individual or organization responsible for the abuse
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