It is best to speak up about the suspected abuse even if you are unsure if abuse is occurring. There are trained experts who can help investigate charges of abuse and neglect. They will start by examining the situation carefully and putting into place safeguards to help prevent the abuse from continuing. For individuals who are unable to speak up for themselves such as the elderly it is even more important to report any suspected abuse.
Not everyone who is being abused is going to openly talk about it. Often abuse victims are confused about what is happening. The victims of abuse tend to be dependent on abusers for their daily care and are usually deeply embarrassed by the abuse. Most victims will avoid talking about the abuse even to the extent of lying for their abuser.
Recognize the warning signs in an elderly adult:
1. Individual appears hungry, unclean, or frightened of caregiver.
2. Sudden changes in personality.
3. No longer participates in activities they once enjoyed.
4. Frequently bruised or injured.
5. Expresses unusual nervousness.
6. Won't allow others into the home.
7. People who didn't previously reside with the elderly adult being allowed ongoing use of the home, this does include relatives who are not caring for the elderly adults needs.
8. Odd noises or bad odors coming from the home.
Recognize warning signs in a caregiver:
9. You witness a caregiver attempting to dominate an older adult.
10. Witnessing a caregiver that is verbally or physically rough with an older person.
11. Evidence that caregiver has a substance abuse problem of any type.
12. Caregiver is financially dependent on the older person they are caring for and expresses ongoing concern about money.
Do not assume that a loved one will not abuse an elder adult, often abusers of the elderly are their adult children or intimate partners. Other abusers can include friends, neighbors, and service providers.
If you are an older adult who is being abused, neglected or exploited, tell at least one person – your healthcare provider, a friend or a trusted family member and give them this information so that they can help you. If you suspect that an older neighbor, acquaintance, friend, or relative is being abused, neglected or exploited, tell someone you know who can help, call Adult Protective Services, (APS), or both. You don’t have to have proof of abuse or neglect; if you’re concerned that this is happening, you should call. When you call for help your name remains confidential, representatives from APS will come to the home to interview the older adult to determine if he or she needs assistance or rescue.
For more information about reporting abuse or questions about elder abuse you can also contact the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) at 1-800-677-1116.