Preventing Elder Abuse

Make sure you understand the different ways abuse can occur for your elderly loved ones

Elder abuse is a serious issue that is often overlooked in many communities. While the exact number of those suffering from this kind of abuse is hard to quantify because many seniors don’t report such instances, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of adults over 60 have experienced this unfortunate mistreatment.

Elder abuse can take many forms. Physical, verbal, sexual, or financial abuse can occur from caregiver neglect, financial scams, and more.

To better protect your loved ones, it’s important to understand the common types of elder abuse and steps you can take to prevent these instances from occurring.

Different types of elder abuse

1. Physical abuse and neglect. Physical abuse is any pain or injury inflicted on a person. Sometimes, physical abuse is unintentional. For example, if a caregiver is trying to help a senior get in and out of a wheelchair and inadvertently injures him or her.

Caregivers neglecting patients is another form of abuse. For example, if a caregiver is bathing a senior patient and fails to check the temperature of the water. Because vulnerable seniors may not be able to immediately verbalize their discomfort, they often sustain serious injuries without the caregiver even knowing.

2. Self-neglect. Some senior patients are victims of self-inflicted abuse. Once a person becomes incapacitated, he or she may need assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, toileting, or eating. Self-neglect is avoidable with the vigilant attention of a caregiver and is, therefore, another type of elder abuse.

3. Verbal or mental abuse. Verbal abuse takes many forms. Examples include: yelling or screaming, manipulating the elderly individual’s emotions, or insulting, bullying or belittling her. Anything that causes the person to be mentally disturbed or upset is considered verbal or mental abuse.

4. Sexual abuse. Instances of sexual abuse among seniors are more common than we might like to believe, especially because patients are often unable to report that they’ve been abused. Sexual abuse takes place when a person is forced into doing or watching a sexual act or experiences unwanted touching, nudity, or inappropriate comments. Anytime a senior is physically contacted without her consent it may be a form of sexual abuse.

5. Financial abuse. Financial abuse occurs if a senior’s funds or accounts are used or exploited without her consent. This might entail a caregiver spending the senior’s funds without her knowledge, or denying the senior access to her rightful funds. Financial abuse also occurs when the senior has a close and confidential relationship with a caregiver who manipulates the senior into “lending” money or giving the caregiver or neighbor large amounts of money.

Moreover, there are other forms of financial abuse in which third parties take advantage of a senior by convincing the senior into participating in a scam. Oftentimes, scammers target the elderly who may be incapacitated, compromised, or not fully aware of the consequences of their actions. The scammer often offers a prize or benefit in exchange for the senior sending them a certain amount of money.

How to protect against elder abuse

Once you understand that your loved ones may be at risk for these types of abuse, it’s time to take the necessary steps to protect them.

Make sure you visit your loved ones and take them out to do things regularly, if possible. Encourage other family members to do the same. Creating a strong support system for your elderly loved ones is crucial to ensure they aren’t being abused. Spending time with your elderly loved ones also gives them a feeling of security and the ability to confide in you about potential abusers.

Also, ensure they have plenty of social outlets wherever they’re living. Too much isolation puts them at risk for abuse and can increase the likelihood of depression and sadness.

Focus on open communication with your loved ones. Let them know you’re paying attention to their care and treatment and encourage them to talk to you about anything strange that may happen to them.

Also, make sure your loved ones know about and understand all of these issues. Tell them about the risks of abuse and what they can do if it happens, like reporting it right away. Keep them up-to-date on all of their financial affairs, show them statements, and have monthly catch-ups. Educate them in the tactics that scammers use and warn them to beware of phone, online, or in person scammers.

Encourage your loved ones to execute important estate planning documents such as; Last Wills and Testaments, Powers of Attorneys, and Health Care Directives while still mentally able to formulate their wishes. This will make it less likely that manipulative family members or strangers will intercede for their own benefit.

Finally, an irrevocable trust is also a good idea to help protect your loved one’s assets and property. These trusts are managed by a trustee and cannot be changed or revoked unless certain conditions are met. This is an effective way to ensure that your loved one’s wishes and beneficiaries are protected and cannot be altered.
To discuss more of your options for long-term planning, Medicaid services, or estate planning, contact NJ Elder Law Center today by calling us at 973-228-1795 or filling out our online content form.

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