Elder abuse and neglect may have once been treated as a private manner and hidden from public view, but it is now a pressing issue which results in more than half a million reports in the United States alone.
The mistreatment of older individuals typically occurs where the senior lives, such as their home where they are being tended to by a healthcare workers or a family member, or in an institutional setting like a long-term care facility (often referred to as a “nursing home” or “retirement home”).
An older person may be abused in one or more ways which can result in a number of significant, long-lasting and sometimes fatal injuries.
Physical abuse is any form of rough handling or act of violence which may or may not result in personal injury, physical discomfort and/or pain. This type of abuse may include:
- Shoving or shaking
- Hitting, slapping, poking or pushing
- Biting and pinching
- Inappropriate restraint
- Not providing appropriate nourishment
- Failure to provide proper assistance
- Failure to provide appropriate fall protection
There are some obvious signs of physical abuse, such as unexplained bruises, broken bones, cuts, bumps and grip marks.
Other common injuries include:
- Internal injuries
- Bed sores
- Signs of restraint (i.e. marks on the wrist and/or ankles)
- Broken eyeglasses or dentures
- Signs of malnutrition (i.e. unexplained weight loss)
- Broken bones – most often the femur or hip.
The stress which an older adult is forced to deal with when subjected to any form of abuse can have a negative effect on his or her overall well-being. It may trigger chest pain or angina, high blood pressure, stomach problems (such as ulcers), breathing problems, and panic attacks.
The aged and infirm can also be abused emotionally or psychologically. Caretakers may do this through the use of intimidation, humiliation and ridicule, or habitual blaming. There are also non-verbal forms of emotional abuse, such as neglect, isolation, and terrorization.
Seniors who suffer from this type of abuse often become withdrawn and suffer from low self esteem. They may become fearful, tearful, and reluctant to speak openly with other friends and family members. Insomnia and helplessness are also common emotional injuries which stem from emotional abuse.
Memory loss is often associated with emotional abuse, but it is not because the senior has actually lost his or her memory. An older person may try to conceal the fact that they are being emotionally abused by a close friend or family member because of the stress, worry, shame or guilt they are feeling.
Sexual elder abuse involves sexual contact with an older person without that person’s consent. While this contact can involve physical sexual acts, it can also include forcing the elderly person to view pornographic material, or forcing the senior to undress.
Some of the most common injuries which result from this type of abuse include:
- Difficulties walking or sitting
- Bruising around the breasts
- Bruising around the inner thighs or genital area
- Unexplained genital infections or sexually transmitted diseases
Victims of sexual abuse will sometimes begin to make inappropriate and unexplained sexual comments and they may have soiled or bloody underclothing.
Whenever an older person’s property or funds have been used without authorization, they have become the subjects of financial elder abuse. A caretaker may misuse a seniors’ financial accounts, steal cash or forge the elderly person’s signature for their own financial gain. Third party abusers may ask for charitable donations for a phony cause or commit investment fraud.
The result of suffering from financial abuse can leave an older person in a dire situation where he or she can no longer afford the level of residency or healthcare he or she needs to remain as safe and healthy as possible. Your loved one may be evicted from his or her home, need to move to a less appropriate healthcare facility, or they may not be able to afford food, water and heating.
We tend to trust healthcare professionals and believe that they are doing what is best for our seniors. But unethical doctors, nurses and other professional providers do exist and may take advantage of an older loved one in a number of ways. The most obvious injury which older persons with healthcare injuries display is obvious lack of care (i.e. old bandages, unclean bedding, bed sores, overcrowding), but both over- and under-medication are common.
The law firm of Dwyer Williams Dretke Attorneys, PC is a trusted law firm with experience in representing our senior citizens in Oregon who have been the subject of elder abuse. Our attorneys have over 100 years of collective experience in personal injury law and we are proud to represent, protect, and advocate for older individuals.
If you are a concerned loved one or are the person being abused, we invite you to call our patient and compassionate attorneys at (541) 617-0555 to arrange a free initial consultation.