With an ever increasing elder population, the United States is a breeding ground for elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. When you are concerned about a loved one in your life that you believe is being treated poorly, understanding what elder abuse is can help you determine what your next step can be. From physical abuse, to financial exploitation, elders are at risk because they may lack the ability to understand what is going on, or be defenseless to prevent the abuse.
What Constitutes Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse is defined as physical or sexual abuse perpetrated on an older person. While the exact definition may vary state to state, physically hitting, pushing, or forcing an elder to have sex all constitute as elder abuse. The consequences for committing elder abuse are different in each state, but it's important to report elder abuse to the authorities if you believe it has occurred. If an older person tells you that abuse has occurred, report it to the police. If you notice bruising on an elder, or they have injuries that are not easily explained, it's time to report your concerns as well.
Defining Elder Neglect
Elder neglect can be more difficult to prove, as there has to be a clear duty of the perpetrator to provide for the basic needs of the victim. Elder neglect is not providing for the basic needs of an elder, failure to keep them clean if they depend on you for their toileting, refusing to feed the elder, or not taking them to medical appointments that are necessary. Neglect can take on many forms, but in general, neglect is failure to act or to take care of someone when they rely on you for their basic needs.
Exploitation is Taking Advantage of Someone
Older people are at high risk of financial exploitation, especially when they rely on caretakers for all of their basic needs. Financial exploitation can be subtle, such as the perpetrator adding in their own groceries when shopping for the elder, or purchasing items with the elder's money and keeping them instead. Other times, financial exploitation can go as far as having the elder change their will and add names to a bank account, in order for the perpetrator to take money out of their accounts.
If you believe an elder is being abused, neglected or exploited, it's important that you report your concerns to the police right away. An area for elder law also exists, so consider talking to a lawyer if you desire to take further action against a perpetrator.