5 Important Things You Should Know About Elder Abuse

Categories: Elder Abuse

Ohio's Elder Abuse Attorney - Borgess Law, LLC
  1. Elder Abuse is NOT Just Physical Harm.

Elder abuse includes various types of abuse including:

  • Physical Abuse;
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Emotional or Psychological Abuse;
  • Neglect;
  • Abandonment;
  • Financial or Material Exploitation and
  • Self-neglect

Ohio law defines abuse as “the infliction upon an adult by self or others of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or cruel punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish.” Neglect means “the failure of an adult to provide for self the goods or services necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness or the failure of a caretaker to provide such goods or services.” Exploitation is “the unlawful or improper act of a caretaker using an adult or an adult’s resources for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain when the caretaker obtained or exerted control over the adult or the adult’s resources in any of the following ways:

(1) Without the adult’s consent or the consent of the person authorized to give consent on the adult’s behalf;
(2) Beyond the scope of the express or implied consent of the adult or the person authorized to give consent on the adult’s behalf;
(3) By deception;
(4) By threat;
(5) By intimidation.”

  1. There is NOT a Typical Abuser.

Abusers fall within all demographic categories. Many abusers are family members, such as adult children, spouses, partners, and others, particularly family members who abuse drugs or alcohol, who have a mental/emotional illness, or who feel burdened by their caregiving responsibilities. The elderly may be reluctant to report abuse themselves because of fear of retaliation, lack of physical or cognitive ability to report, or because they don’t want to get the abuser in trouble, especially if it is a family member.

As reported by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), elder abuse also occurs in community settings, such as private homes, as well as institutional settings like nursing homes and other types of short or long term care facilities. For example, the NCEA provides the following sampling of research findings relating to the prevalence of abuse in long term care facilities in its Research Brief, “Abuse of Residents of Long Term Care Facilities:”

  • Nearly 1 in 3 U.S. nursing homes were cited for violations of federal standards that had potential to cause harm or that caused actual harm to a resident during the two years 1999-2001.  Nearly 1 out of 10 homes had violations that caused residents harm, serious injury, or placed them in jeopardy of death. (2001 U.S. House of Representative Report);
  • In a study of 2,000 interviews of nursing home residents, 44% said they had been abused and 95% said they had been neglected or seen another resident neglected. (Broyles, 2000);
  • Over 50% of nursing home staff admitted to mistreating (e.g. physical violence, mental abuse, neglect) older patients within the prior year in one study.  Two thirds of those incidents involved neglect. (Ben Natan, 2010);
  • One survey of certified nursing assistants (CNA) found that 17% of CNAs had pushed, grabbed or shoved a nursing home resident. 51% reported that they had yelled at a resident and 23% had insulted or sworn at a resident. (Pillemer & Hadson, 1993); and
  • 7% of all complaints regarding institutional facilities reported to long term care Ombudsmen were complaints of abuse, neglect, or exploitation. (NORS Data 2010).
  1. There is NOT A Typical Victim.

Like abusers, elder abuse victims also fall within all demographic categories. As reported by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), it appears that female elders are abused at a higher rate than males and that the older one is, the more likely one is to be abused.  Further, the NCEA reports that there are risk factors that researchers believe may be related to elder abuse including:

  • Dementia and Cognitive Impairment

Elders with dementia are thought to be at greater risk of abuse and neglect than those of the general elderly population. Risk factors for this population include the caregivers’ heightened perception of burden and depressive symptoms, as well as the care recipients’ psychological aggression and physical assault behaviors.

  • Domestic Violence Grown Old

It is important to acknowledge that spouses make up a large percentage of elder abusers, and that a substantial proportion of these cases are domestic violence grown old: partnerships in which one member of a couple has traditionally tried to exert power and control over the other through emotional abuse, physical violence and threats, isolation, and other tactics.

  • Personal Problems of Abusers

Particularly in the case of adult children, abusers often are dependent on their victims for financial assistance, housing, and other forms of support. Oftentimes they need this support because of personal problems, such as mental illness, alcohol or drug abuse, or other dysfunctional personality characteristics. The risk of elder abuse seems to be particularly high when these adult children live with the elder.

  • Living with Others and Social Isolation

Both living with someone else and being socially isolated have been associated with higher elder abuse rates. These seemingly contradictory findings may turn out to be related in that abusers who live with the elder have more opportunity to abuse and yet may be isolated from the larger community themselves or may seek to isolate the elders from others so that the abuse is not discovered. Further research needs to be done to explore the relationship between these factors.

  1. You CAN Help Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones.

If you are an older person, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself from abuse.

  • Educate yourself about elder abuse and your rights;
  • Stay active in the community and maintain a network of family, friends and community relationships;
  • Take care of your physical and mental health;
  • Seek professional help for any drug, alcohol, depression or other mental health concerns, and urge family members to get help for these problems;
  • Make sure you and your caregiver(s) spend at least some of your free time away from each other and look into respite care (temporary help) if necessary;
  • Familiarize yourself with your finances;
  • Plan how to handle your finances;
  • Do not sign anything you don’t understand;
  • Seek independent advice from an attorney or someone you trust if you are asked to sign something you don’t understand;
  • Plan for your future and for incapacity through devices such as living wills or durable powers of attorney; and
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up. If you live in a nursing home or board and care home, you can call an elder abuse attorney or your Long Term Care Ombudsman.

If your elderly loved one is in someone else’s care, watch for signs that could possibly be indications of abuse, such as the following:

  • Bodily injuries such as broken bones, lacerations, abrasions, pressure marks, or burns, (possible signs of physical abuse, neglect or mistreatment);
  • Sexually transmitted diseases, pain, itching, bleeding or bruising in the genital area, or bruising around the breasts, (possible signs of sexual abuse);
  • Missing money or property, sudden changes in financial situations, or caregivers receiving “gifts,” (possible signs of financial abuse or exploitation).
  • Malnutrition, poor personal hygiene, over-medication, under-medication, bedsores, unattended medical needs, elders being left alone or deprived of stimulation or affection, or unusual weight loss (possible signs of neglect); and
  • Low self-esteem, unusual depression, confusion, or anxiety, inappropriate caretaker behavior such as belittling and threats (possible psychological or emotional abuse signs).
  1. HELP is Available.

Adult Protective Services (APS), is part of the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services, and has the responsibility of investigating reports of suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of persons aged 60 and older. If available, APS services may include, but are not limited to, the provision of casework services, medical care, mental health services, legal services, fiscal management, home health care, homemaker services, housing-related services, guardianship services and placement services. They also may include the provision of food, clothing and shelter.  Each County Department of Job and Family Services (CDJFS) must provide protective services to prevent or stop abuse, neglect and exploitation of adults age 60 and older that are unable to care for or protect themselves. This service requirement does not apply to nursing home residents.

You can also call an attorney who handles elder abuse cases. At Borgess Law, LLC we are available to assist elder abuse victims and their families. To get the help you need, call (567) 455-5955. You can also contact Borgess Law by submitting an online inquiry or emailing Attorney Pamela Borgess directly at pborgess@BorgessLaw.com.