What is Elder Abuse?
Each year, over 2 million older Americans are abused, neglected and exploited. Elder abuse is any form of mistreatment that results in harm or loss to an elder. Elder abuse takes many forms, including: neglect; physical abuse; sexual abuse; financial abuse and exploitation; emotional or psychological abuse; isolation and abandonment. Elder abuse is a crime, yet most cases go unreported. It is estimated that only 1 in 14 abuse situations are reported. Many victims cannot help themselves as they depend on others to meet their most basic needs. For many seniors, the person they depend on is the one they fear the most.
How to recognize Elder Abuse
Pay attention. Be alert. Look around. How are people treating the elderly around you? Are there bruises, broken bones or burns that indicate physical abuse? Are there sudden changes in financial situations, or unexplained withdrawal from normal activities? Has someone threatened, humiliated, or nonverbally inflicted mental or emotional anguish on an elderly person? Is a caregiver failing to fulfill his or her responsibilities? Is a senior failing to provide for themselves?
Warning Signs of Financial Exploitation include: lack of affordable amenities and comforts in an elder’s home; living in a condition that does not reflect their financial resources; giving uncharacteristically excessive gifts or financial reimbursement for needed care and companionship; a caregiver has control of an elder’s money but fails to provide for the elder’s needs; an older adult has signed property transfers but is unable to comprehend what the transaction means.
Warning Signs of Physical Abuse include: inadequately explained fractures, bruises, welts, cuts, sores, or burns; unexplained sexually transmitted diseases; lack of basic hygiene or appropriate clothing; lack of food; lack of medical aids (e.g., glasses, walker, dentures, hearing aid, or medications); person with dementia left unsupervised; person confined in bed is left without care; home is cluttered, dirty, or in disrepair; home lacks adequate facilities (stove, refrigerator, heating and cooling, plumbing, or electricity); untreated bed sores or pressure ulcers.
Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse include: unexplained or uncharacteristic changes in behavior, such as withdrawal from normal activities, or unexplained changes in alertness; caregiver isolates the elder (does not let anyone in the home or speak to the elder); caregiver is verbally aggressive or demeaning, controlling, or uncaring.
Common risk factors for abuse include: the elder is socially isolated or withdrawn; the elder is in poor physical health; the elder has dementia or mental health or substance abuse issues; the perpetrator has mental health or substance abuse issues.
What to do if you or someone else is a victim of Elder Abuse
If you suspect elder abuse, report it. Act to protect seniors by bringing suspected abuse to the attention of the appropriate authorities. To report suspected abuse in Santa Barbara County, call Adult Protective Services (APS) in Santa Barbara at (805) 681-4550, APS in Santa Maria at (805) 346-8303 or APS in Lompoc at (805) 737-6020. If the abused lives in a long-term care facility, call (805) 922-1236 or (805)965-1001 ext 244.