The gravity of abuse against individuals in later life is devastating and results in great personal losses, including the loss of independence, life savings, homes, dignity, health, and security. Studies show that up to 10% of the elderly population in America have been abused. In approximately 90% of these cases, perpetrators of abuse in later life are family members. We all need to do our part in stopping this abuse. The first step is spreading awareness and knowing what the warning signs listed below are.
WARNING SIGNS OF ABUSE IN LATER LIFE:
- bruises, black eyes, welts, lacerations, and rope marks
- bone fractures, broken bones, and skull fractures
- open wounds, cuts, punctures, untreated injuries in various stages of healing
- sprains, dislocations, and internal injuries/bleeding
- broken eyeglasses/frames, physical signs of being subjected to punishment, and signs of being restrained
- laboratory findings of medication overdose or under utilization of prescribed drugs
- an elder’s report of being hit, slapped, kicked, or mistreated
- an elder’s sudden change in behavior
- the caregiver’s refusal to allow visitors to see an elder alone
- bruises around the breasts or genital area
- unexplained venereal disease or genital infections
- unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
- torn, stained, or bloody underclothing
- an elder’s report of being sexually assaulted or raped
- being emotionally upset or agitated
- being extremely withdrawn and non communicative or non responsive
- unusual behavior usually attributed to dementia (e.g., sucking, biting, rocking)
- an elder’s report of being verbally or emotionally mistreated
- dehydration, malnutrition, untreated bed sores, and poor personal hygiene
- unattended or untreated health problems
- hazardous or unsafe living condition/arrangements (e.g., improper wiring, no heat, or no running water)
- unsanitary and unclean living conditions (e.g. dirt, fleas, lice on person, soiled bedding, fecal/urine smell, inadequate clothing)
- an elder’s report of being mistreated
- the desertion of an elder at a hospital, a nursing facility, or other similar institution
- the desertion of an elder at a shopping center or other public location
- an elder’s own report of being abandoned
Financial or material exploration
- sudden changes in bank account or banking practice, including an unexplained withdrawal of large sums of money by a person accompanying the elder
- the inclusion of additional names on an elder’s bank signature card
- unauthorized withdrawal of the elder’s funds using the elder’s ATM card
- abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents
- unexplained disappearance of funds or valuable possessions
- substandard care being provided or bills unpaid despite the availability of adequate financial resources
- discovery of an elder’s signature being forged for financial transactions or for the titles of his/her possessions
- sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming their rights to an elder’s affairs and possessions
- unexplained sudden transfer of assets to a family member or someone outside the family
- the provision of services that are not necessary
- an elder’s report of financial exploitation
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PREVENT ELDER ABUSE?
Report suspected mistreatment to your local adult protective services agency or law enforcement. Although a situation may have already been investigated, if you believe circumstances are getting worse, continue to speak out. To report suspected elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation in Florida:
- (800) 962-2873 (For suspected elder mistreatment in the home).
- (800) 453-5145 (For suspected elder mistreatment in the home, TDD/TTY access).
- (888) 831-0404 (For suspected elder mistreatment in long-term care facilities).
- For other states’ reporting numbers, visit the National Coalition on Elder Abuse website or call the Eldercare Locator at (800) 677‐1116.
Keep in contact – Talk with your older friends, neighbors, and relatives. Maintaining communication will help decrease isolation, a risk factor for mistreatment. It will also give them a chance to talk about any problems they may be experiencing.
Be aware of the possibility of abuse – Educate yourself on the warning signs of abuse in later life. Look around and take note of what may be happening with your older neighbors and acquaintances. Do they seem lately to be withdrawn, nervous, fearful, sad, or anxious, especially around certain people, when they have not seemed so in the past?
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship please call the Hubbard House 24-hour domestic violence hotline at (904) 354-3114 or (800) 500-1119. Hubbard House can help.
ABOUT HUBBARD HOUSE
Founded in 1976, Hubbard House is a certified, comprehensive domestic violence center providing programs and services to more than 6,000 women, children and men annually in Duval and Baker counties. While Hubbard House is most known for its emergency shelter, the agency also provides extensive adult and youth outreach services, school-based education, therapeutic child care, batterers’ intervention programs, court advocacy and volunteer and community education opportunities. Visit www.hubbardhouse.org to learn more.