By the time the authorities realized that something wasn’t right with Mary Hall’s situation, it was almost too late. She was found where she had already been kept for several years – cramped up in the bow of her husband’s 30-foot sailboat. She was covered with the vomit and fecal matter of the seven German Shepherds that also shared the tight quarters. Her arms, legs, and fingers showed evidence of numerous untreated fractures that had occurred over the years. She also suffered brain damage from which she may never completely recover.
When Clarence Rogers’ family had finally convinced his adult family care home to take him to the hospital, it was too late. He had been suffering from multiple bedsores that can happen to bed-ridden patients. Clarence’s, however, had gotten so bad that he died shortly thereafter from the infection that had set in.
After Phyllis Lamb’s sister died, she was left alone in her home on 100 acres in Douglas County Oregon, with a $200,000.00 inheritance. Two women who were her neighbors befriended her, and eventually moved in with her. Three years later, Phyllis was broke and her home on the auction block. Abuse of the elderly comes in many different forms, the four most common being:
- Physical Abuse.
- Financial Abuse (exploitation).
- Emotional Abuse.
- Neglect (including self-neglect).
Some of the reasons that elder abuse has been on the rise have been because more people are growing older, many of them have more assets, and there has also been a growing need for caregivers, nursing homes, and live-at home situations. The increasing need for living assistance for elderly relatives can contribute to stressful situations. The rising need for adult care options also gives opportunity to unqualified caregiving situations. There is potential for ignoring what an elder might try to tell us, because they may have dementia or other disorders that lead us to question their grip on reality. The fact that older adults’ skin is thinner and bruises and tears easier also factors into the difficulty in spotting abuse. The situation isn’t hopeless, however. As abuse of the elderly becomes more recognized, we become more aware of some of the warning signs that accompany it. Shelly Pricco, R.N. is a discharge planner at a community hospital. Her job is to assess the living situation of each patient who is admitted to the hospital and determine what their needs might be after discharge. “It is a common mistake,” she states, “To assume that just because an adult child is living in the home with the patient, that they are being taken care of. The truth is, there is a big difference between who is living in whose home. If the adult child is living in the home of the elder parent, that is not always the same as an adult child who has willingly taken a parent into their own home. We cannot automatically assume that a “tenant” child is giving the care that the elder parent needs. It is a situation that could raise a red flag, especially when accompanied by other signs, such as a previously tidy home and yard starting to look unkempt, excessive bruising on the body, or attempts to isolate that elder from friends and family members.” * All names have been changed to protect the privacy of the victims and their families. Abuse is Everyone’s Business! Learn Some of the Signs of Physical Abuse:
- Multiple injuries in various stages of healing (welts, bruises, burns, punctures, lacerations).
- Bilateral bruises or parallel injuries which could indicate forceful restraining or shaking.
- Reluctance of caregiver to seek treatment for injuries.
- Inability to visit victim or be left alone with victim. This could be in the form of being told that the person in question is alseep or unavailable everytime someone comes by.
- Reluctance of caregiver to allow outside social or nursing services to visit the home.
- Victim appearing to be heavily medicated, especially if frequently.
- Marks from restraints such as rope burns around wrists or ankles.
Signs of Financial Abuse:
- Sudden changes in bank account or banking practices.
- Sudden addition of names on bank account.
- Unpaid bills, especially if previosly paid on time.
- Sudden transfer of assets to another, especially to a previously uninvolved family member.
- Provision of services that are unnecessary.
- Sudden changes in a will, insurance policy, or other financial documents.
- Personal anxiety about finances, lack of knowledge about financial status.
Signs of Emotional Abuse:
- Confusion and disorientation.
- Fear of strangers, fear in own environment.
- Ambivalence toward caregiver.
- Becoming quiet when caregiver is in the room.
- Emotional withdrawal.
Signs of Neglect:
- Deterioration of health, malnutrition, dehydration.
- Pressure ulcers or bedsores.
- Excessive dirt and odor on the body or clothes. The presence of fleas or lice.
- Hearing aid, glasses, dentures or walking devices missing or in poor repair.
- Inappropriate dress.
Avoid Being a Victim: Mount Vernon personal injury lawyer Miles John says certain situations readily lend themselves to potential for abuse. Tenant children who see their role change into that of a caregiver can find themselves under stress. Financial problems in the household can lead to abusive situations. Household members with drug or alcohol problems are potential abusers. Beware of people who become too friendly to be true, or who want to assist with matters that seem extremely personal. Don’t allow others to isolate you from friends or family members. Don’t get into any financial deals without legal counsel. You can prevent yourself from being vulnerable by having a certain lifestyle in place:
- Be social. Join senior groups, go to the beauty parlor, chat with neighbors over the fence.
- Keep your living area neat and organized. Know where your possessions and financial records are. Don’t give others the impression that you are unorganized and clueless.
- Don’t leave valuable possessions or your purse lying around in plain sight.
- Stay informed about your will and financial situation. Have an attorney involved in them.
- Have a routine. Let others – shopkeepers, family and neighbors know your routine.
- Don’t live with anyone who has a background of violent behavior, drug or alcohol abuse.
- Arrange direct deposit of your pension and social security checks.
- Take advantage of local chore services, meals on wheels or other senior programs. The more people and agencies visiting your home, the better.