As the number of Baby Boomers entering the retirement years rises, so does the problem of elder abuse. Like all abuse, it is often a crime of opportunity. The people with the most opportunity are family members and caregivers. Signs that abuse may be occurring can be seen in isolation, reluctance to be alone in someone’s presence and an unexplained silence or restraint.
The early stages of neglect and self-neglect are easily missed. Visits should include refrigerator and cupboard, laundry basket and medicine cabinet inspection. Maintenance is less expensive than cure.
Watch the Video on YouTube here: Elder Abuse
Financial exploitation is a major problem. Perhaps 70% or more of financial exploitation is committed by family members; 30% by people who have been named the agent under a Power of Attorney. A free guide, “Money Smart for Older Adults – Preventing Financial Exploitation” is available in several languages from www.consumerfinance.gov, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Where there is any room for question, the person providing the care should not have control of the purse strings. (For more information, read: Signs of Financial Abuse)
A power of attorney can direct the agent to provide accountings to someone else periodically or on request. (That someone should have a copy of the power of attorney.)
Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes
But, abuse comes in many forms and even takes place in locations we typically conceive of as safe.
After prisons and psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes are the third most violent place in America.
Dr. Karl Pillemon’s study of 10 nursing homes, the first study of the prevalence of resident-on-resident violence in long-term care facilities found that during a one month period almost 1 in 5 residents experienced physical, sexual or verbal abuse at the hands of another – while in the presence of someone who was trained to report it. How many were abused without a trained witness reporting it is unknown.
Even the reported incidents are, in Dr. Pillemon’s view, under-reported. People living in long-term care facilities are often cognitively or sensorily impaired and have an incentive not to disclose. In addition, resident-on-resident abuse is so prevalent, that even unbiased residents and staff may become resigned and just accept it. If your loved one lives in a long-term care facility, you may want to research further signs, keep a closer eye on your loved one’s daily life, and be ready for possible intervention. (For more information, read: Elder Abuse – Who To Call)
What if you have other questions?
Elder law attorney, Terry Garrett, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is an Approved Guardianship Attorney. She assists people in elder law, estate and special needs planning, guardianship and settling estates. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.