In 2014, people aged 65 or older made up approximately 14.5% of the total population of the United States. In the next sixteen years, people aged 65 years or older are expected to outnumber the under-18 population. As the Senior population continues to grow, we need to be increasingly diligent about guarding against elder abuse.
The idea that Elder Abuse is a physical assault is a common misconception. Elder Abuse often consists of financial exploitation, malnutrition and neglect, sexual exploitation, unreasonable confinement, intimidation and physical abuse. Unfortunately, studies have shown that nearly 60% of Elder Abuse perpetrators are family members. The National Center on Elder Abuse reports that for every case reported, approximately 24 cases go unreported.
One of the greatest risk factors for every form of Elder Abuse is low social support. As mobility becomes limited, seniors can become increasingly isolated, making them vulnerable to all forms of exploitation and abuse. Other high risk factors include dementia and general poor health. Impaired communication skills can prevent at-risk seniors from understanding their own weaknesses and from obtaining help when there is a problem.
The question remains – how can family members and close friends protect loved ones from Elder Abuse? The answer is simple. Elderly seniors need to maintain close ties with stable, trusted family members and friends. The warning signs are clear that as health declines, isolation increases, and the likelihood of exploitation rises. The elderly senior should have both a Financial Power of Attorney and a Medical Power of Attorney in place to allow someone they trust to keep an eye on bank accounts and medical concerns. If family members suspect dementia or other serious medical problems, they may need to accompany the elderly senior to the doctor’s office to determine the best protection for the senior. Family members should be proactive in helping the senior to remain involved in his or her regular activities, such as Church groups, clubs, and friendships.
Some warning signs of elder abuse are bruises, burns, untreated wounds, isolation by the caregiver, fear, hoarding, poor hygiene, weight loss, lack of food or water, failure to obtain or take prescribed medications, failure to obtain or use necessary health aids, missing property, inability to pay necessary living expenses, or a sudden attachment to another adult. The best way to protect vulnerable seniors is to help elderly seniors maintain close contact with existing social relationships. Visit your elderly loved one at different times of the day. Keep an eye on their bank accounts to watch out for unusual spending. Conduct comprehensive background checks before hiring caregivers, and check in frequently. If family members reside in the home with the senior, ensure that the family members have independent income that is enough to sustain their own lifestyles, and that they are only using the senior’s income or assets for the care of the senior.
Confronting perpetrators of suspected abuse or exploitation can put family members into a tough position. Remember that intervening on behalf of the senior is not only the right choice, it is also the only lawful choice. In Kentucky, the law requires suspicions of elder abuse to be reported.
If you suspect elder abuse or exploitation, do not wait.
Call 270-506-0246 to report exploitation or abuse.