No one knows for sure how many people are affected by elder abuse, but some estimates suggest that as many as one in 10 seniors experience abuse of some kind. Unfortunately, many elderly people are abused by the very people meant to protect and care for them, including nursing home staff and other caregivers.
What Is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse occurs when someone harms an elderly person or puts him or her at a risk of serious harm, whether through an overt act or neglect. Examples of elder abuse include:
- Physical abuse or threats
- Emotional abuse inflicted through verbal or nonverbal acts
- Sexual abuse
- Neglect or abandonment
- Financial exploitation
While elder abuse can happen to anyone, certain factors can make some seniors more vulnerable to abuse than others. For instance, older people living in nursing homes may face a higher risk of abuse or neglect if staff members are not properly screened or receive inadequate training. The risks are also higher for elderly individuals who are socially isolated or mentally impaired by dementia or mental illness, due in part to the fact these seniors are less able to communicate with their loved ones when something is wrong.
Elder Abuse Often Goes Undetected
Sadly, researchers estimate that only one in five cases of elder abuse is ever reported, meaning that many seniors are not getting the help they need to prevent and cope with abuse. To keep elderly friends and loved ones safe from harm, it is important for those close to them to be familiar with the warning signs of elder abuse. Possible indicators that something may be amiss include:
- Physical signs of abuse, such as bruises, burns, abrasions or broken bones
- Poor hygiene, bedsores or unattended medical needs
- Sudden depression or withdrawal from normal activities
- Abrupt changes in financial circumstances
- Tension or frequent arguments with a caregiver
The best way to help prevent elder abuse is to maintain frequent contact with older friends and loved ones, and to be alert to the signs of potential abuse. If you or someone close to you has experienced nursing home abuse or neglect, contact a lawyer with a background in nursing home abuse cases to discuss the possibility of seeking financial compensation.