Each year, a multitude of America’s elderly are abused, neglected, and exploited. Many victims are people who are frail and vulnerable and cannot help themselves. They depend on other people to meet their most basic needs. Abusers of older adults are both women and men, and may be family members, friends, or caregivers.

If someone you cared about was being abused or neglected, would you want to know? If you knew someone suspected that person was being abused, would you want them to find a way to help?

It’s important to know what Elder Abuse is and how to report any suspicions of abuse.

Elder abuse refers to any knowing or intentional act by a person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Every state has some form of elder abuse prevention laws. Those may vary from one state to the next, however, the core definitions are quite similar.

  • Physical Abuse—inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior (slapping, bruising, or restraining by physical or medicated means)
  • Neglect—the failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.
  • Exploitation—the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit. An elder’s finances are their funds and personal property.
  • Emotional Abuse—inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts, e.g. humiliating, intimidating, or threatening.
  • Abandonment—desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
  • Self-neglect—characterized as the failure of a person to perform essential, self-care tasks and that such failure threatens his/her own health or safety.

What are the warning signs of elder abuse? While one sign does not solely prove abuse, there are red flags suggesting a problem may exist:

  • Changes in physical appearance or hygiene
    • Loss of Weight
    • Wearing the same clothes for several days
    • Unexplained bruises or sores, the elderly person might make excuses that they’ve become clumsy or can’t remember how the injury occurred
  • Changes in demeanor or behavior
    • Unexplained withdrawal from their normal activities
    • Unusual sadness, depression or anxious behavior

Remember, it isn’t your role to verify abuse is occurring, but it is all of our responsibility to alert others of our suspicions. You can report suspicions to Indiana’s Adult Protective Services. https://www.in.gov/fssa/da/adult-protective-services/

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