In today’s busy world, families often hire caregivers for their elderly and disabled loved ones. Many times, caregivers do a wonderful job. Still, it’s important for families to keep watch for signs things are not as they should be. It can be difficult to recognize the signs of elder abuse and even harder to know what to do about it.

What is elder abuse?

The term “elder abuse” can mean a single act, repeated act, or lack of appropriate action in several areas, including

  • Verbal, physical or sexual: shouting, hitting, using drugs to inappropriately sedate, or confinement.
  • Psychological or emotional. bullying, taunting, scapegoating, humiliation, isolation, or terrorizing.
  • Financial. unauthorized use of an elderly person’s finances, stealing money or property, forging signatures, forcing a person to sign documents under duress, or identify theft.
  • Healthcare fraud. charging for medical services that were not provided, overcharging, overmedicating or under medicating a patient, recommending inappropriate care, or recommending care for which kickbacks are received.

Elder abuse can also take the form of neglect. Instead of seeing bruises or bank accounts that mysteriously empty, abusive behavior might show up as failing to provide food, shelter, or medical care.

Abusive behavior is not limited to paid caregivers or nursing home personnel. Abusers may be family members, spouses or partners, neighbors, or family friends. Anyone who is in a position of trust for an elder person can be abusive.

How can I recognize elder abuse?

One of the best ways to protect your elderly loved ones is to communicate regularly. Visit often or call if you do not live nearby. Know what is “normal” for your loved one. If your usually talkative Aunt Gertie suddenly falls silent something could be wrong, either medically or because of an abusive situation.

Watch for physical signs of abuse. We all fall from time to time, especially as we age. However, you can watch for broken bones, sprains, dislocations, bruises, scars, and signs of restraints. Neglect may show in the form of unexplained weight loss, dehydration, poor hygiene, and wearing inadequate or inappropriate clothing.

Beware of anyone who tries to limit your time with your loved one. Someone who insists on being present while you visit may be trying to prevent a cry for help.

Ask your elderly relative to talk to an estate planning attorney before they become incapacitated. A durable power of attorney can authorize a trusted person to watch over financial accounts. A health care proxy designates who may make health care decisions for your loved one.

What can I do if I suspect elder abuse?

Do not confront the suspected abuser yourself. This could lead to greater abuse before your family member can be removed to safety. Talk to other family members and friends. Not only can they confirm whether abuse is occurring, but they can help stop the abuser.

If you need immediate assistance with an abusive situation, call 911. Otherwise, you can call the non-emergency number for your local law enforcement. Also, you may contact the Alabama Adult Abuse Hotline:  1-800-458-7214.

Ask an Elder Lawyer.

At Miller Estate and Elder Law., we make it our business to put our client’s needs first. We assist our elderly clients and their families in setting up estate plans that work for them. For a free consultation, contact us at 256-251-2137 or use our convenient Contact Form. We have offices in Anniston and Birmingham. We also assist clients in the Leeds, Gadsden, Hoover, Talladega, Vestavia Hills, and surrounding areas.