What is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse is a serious problem, devastating older adults throughout the country. Unfortunately, the term is often confusing for many – even advocates. The forms of elder abuse are sometimes used interchangeably, making it difficult to understand the different types and how to best protect against them. In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at each of these terms and what they mean so you are in a better position to help if you or someone you love is ever the victim of elder abuse.
The elderly in America are among the most vulnerable members of society, and unfortunately, elder abuse and neglect is all too common. According to statistics from the National Center on Elder Abuse, an estimated 1 in 10 Americans aged 60 and over suffer from some form of abuse or neglect. What’s more disheartening is that only 7% of these incidents are reported. It is essential that we take action to protect our seniors by raising awareness about this issue and taking steps to ensure they have access to the resources needed for a safe living environment.
Defining the Category: Elder Abuse, Neglect, Negligence, and Exploitation
- Elder Abuse: Elder abuse is often used as a general and overarching term to describe intentional actions meant to bring harm to a senior citizen. However, elder abuse is accurately described as the physical act of harming an elderly person. The predatory violations characterizing elder abuse include physical attacks, intimidation, forceful handling, or sexual assault. Even reckless conduct that brings harm to a senior citizen could be considered elder abuse.
- Elder Neglect: Elder neglect is defined as deliberately withholding care and basic needs from an elderly person, disregarding their health and safety. In most cases, elder abuse is a deliberate act, whereas elder neglect can be unintentional or accidental. For example, leaving an at-risk elder while they’re performing dangerous tasks like bathing or changing could be considered neglectful if the senior is injured because of the lack of supervision. Elder neglect charges could also stem from an incident of accidental negligence, like the unintentional act of failing to give a vulnerable senior citizen their medication or providing prescribed care when they are in your charge.
- Facility Negligence: When neglect happens in a group setting, like a nursing home or assisted living facility, it’s considered facility negligence or nursing home abuse. Examples of facility negligence are typically perpetuated by staff and include indicators like pressure ulcers, bruising from falls or strong handling, or extreme weight loss and malnutrition. Federal and state laws are in place to protect elders living in senior care facilities.
- Elder Exploitation: Elder exploitation is commonly associated with financial abuse. In many cases, predatory actors use manipulation, intimidation, and mistruths to trick seniors into harmful schemes or arrangements that leave seniors with their financial health in jeopardy. Elder exploitation sometimes also includes injury from intimidation or rough handling, but financial harm is typically the only outcome.
What Population is At-Risk?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), once an adult reaches the age of 60, they can begin to experience varying degrees of cognitive decline. While federal law considers individuals elderly after age 65, Washington law provides protections for all adults over age 60. The US Department of Justice research data states that certain factors appear to put individuals at a greater risk of being targeted. Elderly adults suffering from functional dependence, poor health, low income, or mental decline are inherently at risk of falling victim to elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Elders residing in long-term care facilities are particularly vulnerable to abuse for many reasons, mostly because they typically lack reliable monitoring from family members or working staff. It is important that people who fit into any of these categories be aware of these dangers.
Preventing Elder Abuse, Neglect, Negligence, and Exploitation in Your Community
Prevention of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation takes a commitment from all members of the community. Family members, caregivers, medical professionals, and neighbors all have vital roles to play in protecting older adults from harm. Family members can set up regular visits with their elderly relatives to stay informed about physical and mental health changes. Caregivers should be licensed and regulated by the state to ensure they are properly trained in elder care and updated with all state and federal protection laws. Medical providers should take extra steps to report any signs of abuse or harm to appropriate authorities. Neighbors should look out for signs that indicate potential issues with an elderly person’s health or well-being. Prevention is the first line of defense when caring for elderly adults.
Contact Hester Law Group for Legal Assistance in Elder Abuse Cases
Elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation are major problems facing our aging population. It is important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of elder abuse, as well as know who is at risk of being a victim. By understanding these issues, we can work together to prevent elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation from occurring. If you suspect that someone you know may be a victim of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation, there are steps you can take to get help. Washington law provides robust legal protections for older adults, so do not hesitate to reach out for assistance if you or someone in your life is suffering from any type of abuse. Call Hester Law Group at (253) 300-3034 to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.