Understanding the facts about elder abuse

Understanding elderly abuse and the signs of such abuse is the first step in protecting the welfare of senior citizens.

As people age, they may require a greater degree of care or find themselves unable to perform basic self-care tasks. To help ease the burden and improve their quality of life, many senior citizens in Southern California depend on family members as well as trained caretakers, nurses, home health aides and nursing home staff. However, sometimes these people abuse those who depend on them. Such abuse may be physical, sexual, psychological, financial or all four. As such, it is important for people to understand some of the facts concerning abuse to the elderly.

What constitutes elder abuse

Something to consider with elderly abuse is that its definitions and laws are not the same across all 50 states, but there are a few sweeping definitions and types that encompass the term. According to the Administration for Community Living, a federal agency, these types and definitions include the following:

  • Neglect - failing to provide elderly people with food, medical care, shelter or protection
  • Physical abuse - the infliction of pain by either chemical or physical means
  • Sexual abuse - inappropriate touching of a patient without the person's consent
  • Emotional abuse - using words and actions to cause psychological harm, worry or suffering
  • Exploitation - actions that benefit someone else through misappropriating or abusing an elderly person's real estate, funds or assets

Speaking broadly, these types and definitions of elderly abuse, as well as all other manner of elderly abuse, entail conscious, negligent and intentional harm of a senior citizen committed by a person in a caregiver capacity.

Indications of abuse/neglect

There are common signs that a senior citizen might be a victim of elderly abuse. Indications of potential physical abuse include bruising, broken/fractured bones, pressure marks and scrapes. Emotional abuse often leads to low spirits and a sudden unwillingness to participate in regular everyday activities. Signs of sexual abuse include discoloration around the genitalia and breasts. Neglect may manifest in a decline in hygiene, bedsores and medical needs going unmet.

It is important to note that the above signs are not always conclusive evidence of elderly abuse, but they may indicate a problem. Besides elderly abuse, there is also a chance a senior citizen is the victim of malpractice.

The statistics

In 2013, Reuters reported that patient neglect was admitted to by around 50 percent of staff in nursing homes during a survey held nationwide. That same year, an excess of 50 criminal charges was filed against more than 20 nursing home employees for the abuse of patients.

Because elderly people in the Coachella Valley are vulnerable and sometimes unable to remember the abuse they endure, they may require help holding their abusers accountable. A law firm may prove essential in building a solid case.