Elder Abuse

Every year millions of elderly people fall victim to being abused, neglected, and exploited. There are nearly 6 million cases of elder abuse every year. That’s approximately one case every five seconds. Unfortunately, many of these cases will go unreported.

Because these victims are older, frail, in failing health, and vulnerable, unable to help themselves, they depend on others to meet their most basic needs. Alarmingly, typically the abuse occurs at the hands of the people who are most trusted by the victims – Abusers of older adults are both women and men, they can be trusted professionals, such as doctors, caregivers, bankers, or accountants; or they can be neighbors, relatives, spouses, they may be family members, friends, or “trusted others” even strangers. This abuse and neglect frequently occurs in the victims’ own home, or in the homes of their family members and even more disconcerting this abuse and neglect occurs in institutional settings managed and operated by trained professionals who have secured a state license to operate their facilities and even hospitals. The Law Offices of Anthony Vieira has the experience to help you with your case of abuse, personal injury, or wrongful death resulting from negligent operations in a nursing hospital / convalescent hospital / convalescent home situations.

In general, elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. But nearly any behavior leading to harm, pain or mental suffering of a vulnerable adult may qualify as elder abuse – regardless of whether those specific results actually were intended.

Who are "Elders?"

While all 50 states have laws addressing the issue of elder abuse and neglect, the laws are not uniform. Under the federal Older American Acts (OAA), anyone at least 60 years old is an elder or senior citizen. Many states use the same age as the federal law, but some states use the age of 65.

Anyone over 18 and disabled is also considered an "elder" by the OAA and most states' elder-abuse laws.

What is "Abuse?"

Each state law specifically defines elder abuse. Laws and definitions of terms vary considerably from one state to another, but abuse may typically include physical abuse, neglect or a deprivation of care that causes an elder physical harm, pain or mental suffering.

Abuse of the Elderly May Include:

  • Physical abuse -The infliction of physical pain or injury, sexual assault or molestation, or use of physical or chemical restraints for punishment without, or beyond, the scope of a doctor’s order.
    Inflicting physical pain or injury; e.g. slapping, bruising, or restraining by physical or chemical/drugging means.
    Other forms of physical abuse:
    • Assault (for example, during a mugging)
    • Beating, hitting (with or without an object) paddling, slapping or punching
    • Pushing, shoving, shaking, choking or throwing
    • Kicking, pinching, biting or scratching
    • Spitting, force-feeding, hair-pulling, or burning
    • Inappropriate use of drugs and physical restraints
    • Rough handling during care giving, moving the body or administering drugs

  • Sexual Abuse - Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.

  • Neglect - The failure to fulfill a care-taking obligation such as assisting in personal hygiene, providing food, clothing or shelter, protecting a person from health and safety hazards, or preventing malnutrition.

  • Mental and Emotional Abuse - The infliction of fear, agitation, confusion through threats, harassment or other forms of intimidating behavior. Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts, e.g. humiliating, intimidating, or threatening.

  • Neglect - The failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.

  • Financial abuse -The illegal or unethical exploitation and/or use of an elder’s funds, property, or other assets.

  • Abandonment - The desertion of an vulnerable elder by someone who is a caregiver or anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.

  • Exploitation - the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else's benefit.

  • Isolation -The intentional preventing of an elder from receiving mail, telephone calls or visitors.

  • Exploitation - The illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else's benefit.

  • Abduction - The removal, without the consent of the conservator, of a conservatee to another state.
What are the Warning Signs of Elder Abuse?
  1. Possible Relationship Abuse Indicators
    The following are clues for recognizing signs of physical elder abuse. It is not intended to be exhaustive. While one sign does not necessarily indicate abuse, some signs that there could be a problem are:
    • Unexplained weight loss, malnutrition and/or dehydration.
    • Physical injury: Areas painful on touching, fractures or broken bones.
    • Bruises and Skin Damage:
    • Bruises on the inner arm or thigh;
    • Bruises with shape similar to an object or thumb/finger prints (oval markings from fingers);
    • The presence of old and new bruises in the same place as from repeated injury or injuries in different stages of healing;
    • Clustered marks as from repeated striking; bilaterally on soft parts of body, not over bony parts (knee & elbows);
    • Scratches, cuts, pinch marks, choke marks, burns, welts, gag marks, sprains, punctures, bedsores, or fractures.
    • Repeated unexplained injuries
    • Inconsistent explanation of injuries
    • Refusal to go to the emergency room for treatment
    • Pressure sores - Pressure sores are also called bedsores or decubitus ulcers. Any bedfast or debilitated patient is at risk of developing these skin wounds. Each nursing home knows that they are supposed to conduct regular skin checks looking for early pressure sores, and to promptly adjust the plan for care and treatment in order to prevent the progression of pressure sores. There is no reason for pressure sores to reach "stage 3" or "stage 4" as where the muscle or bone is exposed to the air and infection. Yet severe pressure sores are one of the most frequently occurring injuries in nursing homes.
    • Starvation and dehydration - The abused elder literally starves to death. Starvation goes hand in hand with dehydration. No one assists the patient in eating
    • Miscellaneous: burn injuries; severe bowel impactions; maggot infestations and other parasitic infestations in body cavities; unnoticed and therefore unaddressed infections; unnoticed and unaddressed vascular impairment leading to gangrene and amputation; and ultimately, death.

  2. Behavioral Indicators
    • Agitation
    • Anger
    • Anxiety
    • Confusion or disorientation
    • Defensiveness
    • Denial
    • Depression
    • Fear
    • Helplessness
    • Hesitation to talk openly
    • Implausible stories
    • Non-responsiveness
    • Withdrawal

  3. Possible Relationship Abuse Indicators
    • The elder may not be given the opportunity to speak for him/herself
    • Obvious absence of assistance, attitudes of indifference, or anger toward the elder by family member or caregiver
    • Social isolation or restriction of activity of the elder
    • Conflicting accounts of incidents by the family or caregivers
    • Substance abuse by individual responsible for the care of the elder

  4. Financial Abuse or Exploitation
    Signs that someone may be taking advantage financially of a senior include:
    • The elderly adult is unaware of their monthly income
    • Large withdrawals from bank accounts, switching accounts, unusual ATM and banking activity
    • Signature on checks don’t match elders signature
    • Frequent checks made out to cash
    • Bank statements, credit card statements, etc., do not get sent to the older adult
    • Numerous unpaid bills
    • Documents are drawn up for the elder to sign but the elder can not explain or understand the purpose of the papers
    • Caregiver refuses to spend money on the older adult
    • Personal belongings (jewelry, art, expensive clothing, papers, documents, credit cards, etc.) are missing
    • Recent acquaintances declare undying affection for the older adult and isolate him or her from friends and family members. Sometimes, the acquaintance promises lifelong care in exchange for the older adults deeding all property or assets to the acquaintance/caregiver, etc.
    • Caregivers name added to bank account
    • Duplicate billings for the same medical services or devices; significant withdrawals from the elder's accounts
    • Sudden changes in the elder's financial condition; items or cash missing; suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and policies;
    • Addition of names to the senior's signature card
    • Unpaid bills or lack of medical care, although the elder has enough money to pay for them; financial activity the senior couldn't have done, such as an ATM withdrawal when the account holder is bedridden;
    • Unnecessary services, goods, or subscriptions

If you suspect your loved one is being subjected to elder abuse or has been seriously injured in a senior nursing hospital / convalescent hospital / convalescent home, please contact us at The Law Offices of Anthony Vieira. You want an experienced trial attorney who is committed to helping each individual they represent. They work on the behalf of others to help improve the quality of life for seniors and elderly loved ones.

It is important to contact our firm if you know of someone in a serious abusive situation. If you need a lawyer who can help obtain proper care and compensation for the wrongs you or a loved one have suffered, contact us today.

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