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When and How to Act on Suspicions of Elder Abuse

August 21, 2015  ·  By HM&M

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Some people need more protecting than others, particularly young children and the elderly. That responsibility rests on the shoulders of the community—caregivers, healthcare professionals, financial institutions, neighbors, friends, and family—so make a difference in the lives of those around you. Learn how to recognize the signs of elder abuse, and know what you should do to take action against it.

Understanding Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is any type of mistreatment that results in harm or loss to an older person. Most commonly, abusers are spouses and family members, but an abuser can be anyone that comes into regular contact with the victim, including:

  • Caregivers,
  • Nursing home staff,
  • Physicians,
  • Surgeons,
  • Old friends,
  • New “friends” that intentionally prey on the elderly,
  • Extended family members,
  • Volunteer workers,
  • Home health staff,
  • Financial institutions,
  • And more.

Any elderly person can be a victim of elder abuse, including individuals that mostly care for themselves. This is because, as a whole, elder abuse covers a wide range of issues, including sexual abuse, financial abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse, and neglect. However, there are some factors that can place an elderly person at higher risk of abuse, such as those with:

  • Little to no social or familial support,
  • Mental impairments or disabilities,
  • Caregivers that are financially or emotionally dependent on the elder.

Recognizing the Red Flags of Elder Abuse

Many of the red flags, or signs of elder abuse, are similar to those of child abuse, such as a lack of basic hygiene or care, isolation of the elder by the caregiver, and inadequate explanations for sores, bruises, burns, welts, sores, or broken bones. Others are a little less straightforward or more specific to the elderly, such as untreated bed sores, a caregiver that seems overly concerned over spending, unexplained sexually transmitted diseases, or a lack of basic medical aids or amenities that the elder has funds for.

Taking Action Against Elder Abuse

It can be difficult to take action when you suspect abuse or neglect, especially if you do not know the person well. However, it is important to consider the repercussions of inaction. You should also be aware that there are eight states in which “any person” with reasonable suspicion of elder abuse must report their suspicions to the proper authorities.

So how do you go about reporting elder abuse, and when do you consider a suspicion “reasonable cause?” Your best bet is to go with your gut, and if you believe the individual is in immediate danger, contact the police. If it is not an emergency, you can contact Adult Protective Services in Illinois. Be prepared to answer questions about your suspicions, but know that you do not have to have any viable “proof.” It is up to the authorities to investigate the matter further.

When Someone You Love is the Victim of Elder Abuse

When the person you love is victimized by a caregiver, service provider, or facility, you or your loved one may be entitled to compensation. But you should not go it alone; the legal system can be complex and lengthy if you do not have the right support, so seek out qualified nursing home abuse in your area.

At Hurley McKenna & Mertz, we pride ourselves on providing compassionate representation in Illinois and nationwide. For a free consultation, contact our Chicago attorneys today by calling 312.553.4900. We are ready to fight for you.


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