What To Do If You Suspect Elder Abuse ?
People of any age can be subject to abuse, but child abuse and elder abuse happen far more frequently — and these types of abuse should be reported as soon as potential signs are noticed. Signs of abuse can vary depending on the type of abuse taking place, but no matter what the situation is, abuse of any kind is one that should be handled as early as possible. If you suspect elder abuse, then you should take one or more of the following steps as soon as you suspect abuse.
Know the Signs of Elder Abuse
The first thing to keep in mind when you are leaving an elderly family member in the care of anyone — or if you know an elderly individual who requires a lot of care — is that the signs of abuse may not be obvious. While signs of physical abuse — like bruises and other injuries that go unexplained time and time again — are obvious, signs of other types of abuse may be easier to miss.
For example, changes in behavior can be signs of mental abuse, and unwashed clothing or unchanged bedsheets can be signs of neglect. If the individual is being abused financially, then signs could be something like missing checks, declined payments or missing credit and debit cards. In the case of financial abuse, the abuser is often a family member, and in any case where the abuser is a family member the elderly individual is unlikely to report the abuse themselves.
Document the Abuse to the Best of Your Ability
Knowing these signs of abuse and documenting them as best you can — through pictures, dated descriptions of events or injuries, banking statements with unauthorized purchases — is one of the best things you can do to help the individual when reporting elder abuse. The more you have to back up your claims of abuse — including medical records, witness reports, and any other documented proof you are able to provide — the better your chances are at getting the individual the help they need in time.
Know Who to Report Abuse To
When reporting elder abuse, you have a number of options — but if you think the individual is in imminent danger due to abuse then you should always call 911 first, and they can help you make sure the elderly person is safe. If it does not seem like the person is in immediate danger, then you can go about it in one — or more — of the following ways:
- Reporting to an Adult Protective Services Agency (in most states)
- Calling an attorney who specializes in nursing home or elder abuse cases
It is often best if you take a combination of these two approaches — especially if you suspect the abuse is being caused by a health care professional such as a nurse (in a hospital, hospice or nursing home), doctor, staff member or other health care provider. Depending on who is found to be at fault for the abuse, they could potentially end up owing the abused individual a monetary settlement.
If you suspect elder abuse and still have questions as to how to report abuse, what signs of abuse might be or how to go about documenting the suspected abuse, then you should contact an attorney who specializes in cases with these unique circumstances.