San Diego Elder Abuse Attorney
When our loved ones can no longer take care of themselves, we sometimes have to turn to others to protect them, often paying thousands of dollars out of our own pockets to do so. Unfortunately, some seek to exploit our nation’s most vulnerable citizens.
The National Council on Aging, which oversees much of our elders’ activity, reports that around 10% of all Americans over 60 have endured some kind of abuse. They also estimate that around 5 million elders are abused in nursing homes each year. Of these incidents, only 7% are reported to the authorities.
The nursing home employees taking advantage of vulnerable residents is unconscionable. Know the signs of elder abuse – and when it’s time to contact an attorney.
What Is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse is characterized as any offense that hurts a senior physically, emotionally, mentally, or financially. An “elder” is generally defined as anyone over 60. There are several forms of elder abuse:
- Neglect is one of the most common forms of abuse in nursing homes. One of the most common examples of neglect is bedsores, which result when nursing home staff neglects to reposition an incapacitated elder. Other forms of neglect may include malnutrition or failing to provide appropriate supervision to an elder with dementia. When neglect causes physical harm, it rises to the level of physical abuse.
- Emotional abuse causes an elder to feel unsafe or insecure in their environment. An example of elder emotional abuse is false imprisonment, in which nursing home staff force a resident to stay in a certain area. They may even deprive elders of tools that help their mobility (walkers, wheelchairs).
- Financial abuse of the elderly is becoming increasingly common. A family member or nursing home staff commits financial abuse when they fraudulently use an elder’s financial information. Examples may include stealing credit cards, charging excessive fees to their room, or even coercing an elder into changing a will, or deed.
A Closer Look at Physical Abuse and Seniors
Physical abuse can range from slapping or hitting to restraint of an elder. Physical abuse can worsen an elder’s health and cause serious psychological ailments.
Symptoms of physical abuse can include:
- Bruises or other marks on the body
- Marks on wrists or ankles from restraints
- Hair loss from grabbing/pulling hair
- Scratches or bite marks
- Burn marks
- Frequent or unexplained fractures or other injuries
- Frequent emergency room visits
The elder’s caregiver may:
- Offer explanations inconsistent with injuries
- Fail to give status reports to families
- Fail to notify family when elder is taken to the emergency room
- Refuse to take elder to the doctor
- Won’t allow family/friends to visit
What Are the Warning Signs of Elder Abuse/Neglect?
Each case of elder abuse is unique, and some may be suffering from several types at once. When an elder has profound mental issues or dementia, it can be difficult to discern the presence of abuse.
Keep an eye out for these warning signs:
- Bedsores, which may be a sign of neglect
- Dramatic weight loss, especially within a short period of time
- Changes in behavior or spending habits, especially around certain people
- Becoming increasingly withdrawn
- Seeming fearful of certain people
- Broken bones or suspicious injuries from falls
- Angry outbursts or fits of depression
- Sudden or dramatic emotional changes, which can be a sign of “false dementia,” common in abused elders.
These are some common red flags, but it is not an exhaustive list. If you suspect a loved one is suffering from elder abuse, take immediate action to protect their safety.
The state legislature of California has enacted a crucial set of laws in the Welfare & Institutions Code known as the Elder Abuse Act. This code is designed to protect the rights of our elders 65 and older, as well as dependent adults. In California, the Elder Abuse Act severely penalizes those who victimize elderly people.
What to Do When You Suspect Elder Abuse
If you suspect a loved one is experiencing any form of elder abuse, don’t hesitate to take action. For their safety, observe the following:
- Get them a new place to stay. If they are staying at a nursing home, remove them from the situation immediately. If they are with a relative, find an excuse to get them away from their abuser.
- See if you can verify their story. Talk to visitors or coherent residents to see if they can corroborate your loved one’s accounts.
- Contact the authorities. If there is elder abuse, the perpetrator must pay. Report everything you know to the police or district attorney’s office. If they find enough evidence, they will press charges.
Do Seniors Sometimes Hide Abuse?
Yes; there are many reasons why an elder may not speak up when they are being abused or neglected. The elder may:
- feel frightened or threatened by their abuser.
- be embarrassed by their inability to stop the abuse.
- be convinced that the abuse or neglect is “normal”
Find A San Diego Elder Abuse Attorney
Elder abuse is a crime, and you may file a civil suit on top of criminal charges for compensation for damages. Examples of damages include refund of nursing home charges, compensation for medical bills, and the pain and suffering associated with the ordeal. For more information about our elder abuse services, please contact our law firm for a free initial consultation.