What Are the Signs of Elder Abuse and Neglect?

Elder law is now a pertinent component of aiding in ensuring that the elderly are not abused and neglected; however, these two tragic situations still detrimentally impact our nation’s aging population. In recent years, the unfortunate circumstances that have surrounded the elderly have acted as a proverbial “fuel” to the “fire” of awareness involving the needs of the older individuals within our society. Social welfare issues focus on justice, and economic-based situations involving the elderly now play a major role in our nation. Currently, there are nearly 50 million people that are 60 years and older. Just over 3 million people are older than the age of 85. By the year 2050, individuals over the age of 85 will be seven times higher than today. By the year of 2030, approximately 20% of the population will be considered “elderly“. This increase in the aging population will result in an increase of elderly neglect and abuse. The need for elder law and the elder law attorney will become increasingly high. We must start preventing and eliminating elder abuse and neglect today by learning as much as we possibly can about it; we can start today by knowing the signs that abuse and neglect are occurring.

Historical Notations of Elder Abuse and Neglect

While the concepts of abuse and neglect among the elderly seem to be relatively new, ancient civilizations often spoke of this issue. We see mentions of these devastating events throughout several pieces of literature. Examples of authors that specify these topics include both Shakespeare and Jonathan Swift. In 1975, the first mention of the topics was mentioned in the medical-based publication from England, the British Medical Journal. It identified the situation as “Granny Battering”. In the 1950s, the United States Congress created financial-based incentives for protective services. In the 1970s, reports of abuse and neglect within nursing homes brought a high level of awareness to the concept of elder mistreatment. In the early 1980s, it was established that the abuse and neglect of the elderly were not just at the hands of relatives, but, that it was a nation-wide issue occurring at higher frequencies than anyone had ever imagined. Throughout the 1990s, the National Institute on Elder Abuse was created, which aided in establishing elder law. Today, numerous professionals work as elder attorney representatives to ensure that the aging population is being properly cared for and not subjected to any level of abuse and/or neglect. Unfortunately, these unfortunate situations continue to abound behind closed doors. This is why it is imperative for everyone to be aware of the signs of elder abuse and neglect.

The Definition

Numerous agencies, researchers, medical professionals, and those that specialize in psychological health have provided insight as to what the definition of elder abuse and neglect is, throughout the years. It was in the year of 1985 when a special act referred to as the “Elder Abuse Prevention, Identification, and Treatment Act” provided an official definition. That is, as follows:

Elder abuse and neglect is the willful and intentional infliction of any type of injury, unreasonable bouts of confinement, any degree of intimidation, or cruel-based punishments that result in physical pain, physical injury, mental-based pain and/or anguish. It is also the deprivation of any caretaker of items, goods, and/or services that are required in order to avoid physical-based harm, mental-based harm, and/or anguish. Elder abuse and neglect include physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, abandonment, neglect, material exploitation, and financial exploitation. Additionally, elder law has concluded that elder abuse and neglect may also include self-abuse and self-neglect.

The Signs

According to professionals, elder abuse and neglect is often under-reported; yet, it remains to be viewed as a central concern in the nation. Not all elderly individuals have the ability to report abuse. In some instances, the individuals may be frightened to report the abuse. As a result, we must all develop a solid understanding of the signs associated with abuse and/or neglect. As outlined in the previously-mentioned definition, “abuse”; may be classified as physical, psychological, sexual, financial, and neglect. Below, we will outline signs of each of these types of abuse:

Signs of Physical Abuse:

Unusual markings and/or bruises on the arms, legs, and/or neck
Welts on the ankles, legs, arms, and/or wrists
Unexplained injuries – especially those that are repetitive in nature
Dismissive attitude and/or explanations about injuries
Unresponsiveness and/or uncommunicative attitude
Paranoia, fear, and suspicion
Social withdrawal
Evasive attitude
Drastic changes in behavior
Refusal to see a medical professional

Signs of Psychological Abuse:

The development of habits such as rocking back and forth or sucking
Development of conduct or behavior-based disorders
The onset of neurotic disorders

Signs of Sexual Abuse:

Unexplained and/or consistent infections
Bleeding from the vagina, penis, and/or anus
Underwear that is torn, stained, and/or bloody
Bruises on breasts, buttocks, vagina, and/or penis
Venereal diseases

Signs of Financial Abuse:

Living conditions don’t match up to financial situation
Switching of financial accounts
Unexplained charges
Unexplained withdrawals
Unusual activity on bank account or at ATMs
Signatures on purchases and/or checks don’t match the elderly account holder

Signs of Neglect:

Weight loss
Poor hygiene
Lack of nutrition
Lack of food and water
Clothing that is inappropriate to season
Left unsupervised
Consistent injuries
The development of illnesses
Untreated pressure sores
Lack of medications
Lack of necessary medical aids
Unattended physical needs
Unattended medical needs
Excoriations
Fecal impaction and other gastrointestinal disorders

Conclusion

If you know someone that appears to be the victim of elder abuse and/or neglect, you should enlist the assistance of an elder attorney. These professionals specialize in elder law and have the resources necessary to aid the suffering. Abuse and neglect are both highly complex problems that have the ability to stem from various causes. The most common being stressors pertaining to family life, caregiver-related stress, cultural-based issues, and societal problems. No person “regardless of age or disability” should be subjected to any type of violence, abuse, or neglectful behaviors and/or actions. Elder law lawyers have the capability of providing the education, counseling, resources, and information on respite care, social contact, and societal support in order to protect today’s aging populations. By learning the signs of elder abuse and neglect today, you may help protect a loved one’s life tomorrow.