According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), elder abuse in Montana is:
“an intentional act or failure to act by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult (defined as someone age 60 or older).”
Elder abuse is a difficult topic to think about. Despite that, the CDC and National Council on Aging estimate that elder abuse, exploitation, and neglect affect 1 out of every 10 people ages 60 and older. This means that upwards of 5 million seniors experience abuse each year. Even worse, people only report a tiny fraction of those cases to law enforcement.
If your family is facing elder abuse, you might not know where to turn. This is a difficult time, and understanding your options is the best way to obtain the counsel you require.
Elder abuse doesn’t always leave a mark. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be physical in nature. This is part of what makes it so difficult to identify and respond to. “Elder abuse” is a general term that encompasses the following actions:
Here’s what you need to know:
What is Elder Abuse?
- Emotional abuse. Emotional abuse takes many forms, but may include yelling, threatening, intimidation, or harassment. Forced isolation, wherein caregivers prevent seniors from seeing close friends or family members, is also a form of emotional abuse.
- Physical abuse. Physical abuse occurs when an older person experiences injury, pain, or illness as a result of the intentional caregiver force. This includes hitting, kicking, pushing, or slapping.
- Financial exploitation. Financial abuse is a common form of elder abuse. It happens when a caregiver makes illegal or improper use of a senior’s financial resources. Examples include stealing money from an older person’s account, making unauthorized credit card transactions, and changing wills without permission.
- Sexual abuse. Sexual abuse involves any unwanted or forced sexual interaction with an older adult. This includes but is not limited to sexual contact, penetration, or verbal harassment.
- Neglect. Neglect is one of the most insidious forms of elder abuse. It may mean withholding food, water, shelter, hygiene, and medication.
Elder abuse can happen to anyone. With that in mind, it’s critical to understand the signs and know how to respond.
Recognizing Elder Abuse
According to the CDC Fact Sheet on elder abuse:
“Elder abuse can have several physical and emotional effects on an older adult. Many victims suffer physical injuries. Some are minor, like cuts, scratches, bruises, and welts. Others are more serious and can cause lasting disabilities. These include head injuries, broken bones, constant physical pain, and soreness.
Physical injuries can also lead to premature death and make existing health problems worse.Elder abuse can have emotional effects as well. Victims are often fearful and anxious. They may have problems with trust and be wary around others.”
Responding to Elder Abuse: 3 Things you Must Do
Suspect your loved one has been a victim of elder abuse? Here are the steps to take:
1. Get the Senior to Safety Immediately
If you suspect elder abuse, get the senior out of their current living situation immediately.
While abuse in assisted living communities is less common than it is in private homes, 7% of all complaints regarding institutional facilities reported to the Long-Term Care Ombudsman advocacy group involved abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
If you notice signs of abuse or neglect, remove the senior from the facility immediately. Report your concerns to the supervising body, as well.
2. Contact the Police
File a police report if you suspect elder abuse. In some cases, seniors may be unwilling or hesitant to talk about their experiences, or may not have the capability to do so. It’s important to file a police report regardless, as this will provide the foundation for trying the case down the road.
3. Call an Attorney
Nursing home litigation in Montana can be a difficult process. If you’re going to take your case to court, you need a skilled nursing home litigation attorney to guide you. Secure representation sooner rather than later, as there may be a statute of limitations on your case.
4. Get Support
Healing from elder abuse can be an extensive process. Find a therapist who specializes in trauma and deals with victims of abuse. This is particularly helpful for people who are fearful or depressed in the wake of the abuse, or who believe they were to blame.
Preventing Elder Abuse
It’s impossible to prevent elder abuse 100% of the time. There are, however, things that can make it less likely. These include the following:
- Listen when older adults report concerns or discomfort. There are typically warning signs before elder abuse starts or get worse.
- At the first indication that someone you love may be experiencing elder abuse, report it to Adult Protective Services.
- Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of elder abuse, and how they differ from aging or dementia.
- Be mindful of senior isolation, and check in often on seniors who don’t have many friends or family members.
- Provide over-burdened caregivers with emotional and instrumental supports such as help from friends, family, or local relief care groups; adult day care programs; counselling; or outlets intended to promote emotional well-being.
Are you experiencing elder abuse in Montana? Contact McGrady Law today.