Elder abuse occurs too often in our communities. Many elderly adults are abused in their own homes, in homes of their relatives, and in facilities responsible for their care. How do you know if someone is being abused and how can you help?
What are the signs of elder abuse?
According to the Department of Health and Human Services,* the following are signs that an elderly person you know and love may be a victim of abuse:
• If you notice bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions and burns on the person, there may be physical abuse occurring.
• If the person withdraws from normal activities, appears depressed, or has a sudden change in alertness, he or she may be a victim of emotional abuse.
• When a person tells you about some big change in their finances or discusses a special contest or reward program you’re not sure about, that is a red flag.
• If a “long-lost” son or daughter or a new love interest starts hanging around and consistently asks for money, your friend may be a victim of exploitation.
• If you notice bed sores, poor hygiene or unusual weight loss when you visit a friend, he or she may be a victim of neglect.
How can you help?
Be alert and attentive to the elderly adults you know and love. Many times they suffer in silence because they think the abuse is their fault, or they don’t really understand what’s happening to them. If you believe elder abuse is occurring, report it immediately. Don’t get caught up in determining whether or not it truly is abuse – just report it and let the professionals investigate.
To report suspected abuse in the community, contact your local Adult Protective Services agency. For state reporting numbers, visit www.apsnetwork.org, visit the website for the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) at www.ncea.acl.gov, or call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 (www.eldercare.gov).
To report suspected abuse in a nursing home or long-term care facility, contact your local Long-Term Care Ombudsman. You can find the appropriate reporting numbers by visiting www.ltcombudsman.org, or the NCEA website at www.ncea.acl.gov. You can also call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 (www.eldercare.gov).