Elder abuse can be physical, emotional, financial or even sexual in nature. The laws protect victims of this kind of abusive behavior, but it is crucial for loved ones to check up on elderly parents and friends. Some are well-cared for by healthcare professionals, but there are exceptions. Sometimes victims live at home under the care of adult children, a spouse or caregiver who is unable or unwilling to provide a safe and loving environment.
It is important to talk to residents and caregivers when visiting. It is also essential to be mindful of what your eyes and ears tell you — it’s a sad fact, that many victims of elder abuse may not even be aware of the behavior or are unable to articulate it through normal conversation.
Common warning signs of potential abuse
Some occasional injuries can be explained, but patterns often emerge when there are problems:
- Physical abuse: Signs include injuries like bruises, welts, or scars that cannot be explained or seem far-fetched. Look for symmetrical injuries on both sides of the body or marks on the wrists. Also note sprains, dislocations and broken bones – these can be from indifferent care or abusive behavior. Overdoses or failure to follow a medication schedule (look to see if medication is taken and prescriptions are filled). Note broken eyeglasses, frames or other signs of struggle in the living space.
- Emotional abuse: This can involve the caregiver yelling at the elderly person, making threats, being overly controlling, or refusing to allow visitors to see the victims. Victims’ behavior will sometimes radically change, becoming very aggressive or exhibit behavior that mimics dementia.
- Financial abuse: It is wise for an adult child to monitor credit cards and bank accounts to ensure there are no large or unusual purchases where caregivers are buying things for themselves.
- Sexual abuse: This involves bruising on the breasts or unexplained bleeding from the genitals.
Check the living space
The eyes and nose will tell you whether a living space is maintained:
- Is there garbage or rotting food from meals left out?
- Does the space smell or have an infestation of bugs?
- Is the bedding regularly changed?
- Is the climate control operating properly?
- Is there running water and electricity?
A heavy burden
Healthcare professionals are trained to care for their patients under the most challenging of circumstances. Friends and family may not have that background, but nonetheless find the work rewarding. Either way, the burden can be too much for some. Call 911 if there is immediate danger, and speak with management if the victims receive professional care. If the answers don’t add up, it is wise to consult with a legal professional who handles these types of matters here in Kentucky.