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The youngest and oldest among us are vulnerable and exposed to abuse more than most other populations. But elderly people are exposed to some added abuse dangers that children do not face.
Elder abuse is unfortunately common and it happens for many reasons. Being in nursing homes and in the hands of professional caregivers increases the risk of mistreatment. Plus, older people are much more likely to face financial exploitation. This is what to look out for.
It can be difficult to be patient with old people and emotional abuse of the elderly does happen with some regularity. Even in loving families, caring for another person is very trying and nerves wear thin. This is all the more true for people working in institutions with lots of people under their care. Watch out for signs of threats, intimidation, harassment, bullying, and insults. If you have family in a nursing home and your relative is scared of the caregivers, this might be a sign of abuse.
Old people can be sexually active and consensual sex is of course not a problem. But there are situations in which people are unable to express consent or lack thereof and sexual abuses of elderly people do occur. If you see signs of unusual behavior, fear, or physical marks indicating the possibility of unwanted touching, do inquire. Follow up with the institution. People too weak to care for themselves need the rest of us to be extra vigilant in their defense.
Many families entrust the care of their elders to one family member and this is relatively comfortable for the rest of the family, so they do not scrutinize too closely or make demands from the guardian. This is not the right approach. Neglect and abandonment by designated or appointed caregivers does happen, all the more so if they are left entirely alone to manage grandma and grandpa. Take the time to check in and check out what is happening.
The elderly are unlike other vulnerable populations in that they are more likely to have income and assets than, say, children. This means that they are also commonly the targets of cons and scams, or even overly assertive relatives. If your elders have a guardian of some kind managing their assets, make sure that there is also someone watching the guardian too. Keep an eye on nursing home accounts and expenditures and follow up on seemingly strange billing practices.
If you're concerned about an already injured elder being treated negligently or about setting up elder care that is safe for the future, consult with a personal injury attorney or an elder law attorney. Many attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to discuss your situation.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.