When Florida seniors age, they may reach a time when they can no longer safely take care of themselves. It is at this point that oftentimes caregivers are entrusted in keeping your senior loved ones safe and healthy. Caregivers spend hours with their seniors and must be fully trustworthy, competent and compassionate.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Elder abuse is far more common than most people realize. There are over half a million cases being reported each year but research tells us that millions more are unreported to authorities. Further, most elder abuse originates with someone the senior knows well. This can include the caregiver and family members.
Elder abuse can include physical, emotional, or sexual harm. It may also manifest as financial exploitation or neglect of the senior’s welfare by anyone who is directly responsible for his or her care. Elder abuse can occur anywhere. In fact, elder abuse can occur in the senior’s own home, relatives’ homes and in long-term care facilities. As of last year, studies report that one in ten seniors will be abused in their lifetime.
It is not always easy to realize elder abuse is occurring, especially when caregivers and family members seem trustworthy. Let us share a few example we give our clients that you can use to monitor and support the seniors in your life.
1. Broken eyeglasses or suspicious bruising.
Any unexplained signs of injury could suggest physical abuse. Make sure to keep a watchful eye for bruises, welts or scars, especially if they appear symmetrical on two sides of the body. Naturally, accidents happen. When injuries occur frequently and are unexplainable, however, this may be a red flag. Ask questions of your senior loved one and get answers. Physical abuse of any kind cannot be tolerated.
2. Mimicking dementia symptoms without a diagnosis.
When a caregiver emotionally abuses a vulnerable elder, he or she may cope by displaying signs of dementia. This happens even when the senior does not have the illness. This behavior is typically exhibited as rocking, sucking on a thumb or mumbling. If you see this behavior, do not wait to investigate. Start by speaking to both the senior and the caregiver. When speaking to the latter, watch for threatening, belittling or controlling behavior. Do not neglect speaking to the primary care doctor or specialist as well.
3. Unusual weight loss, malnutrition or dehydration.
These are classic signs of neglect. If you notice any of these signs do not wait to speak with the caregiver about what he or she is feeding your loved one and how often he or she is drinking water. There are occasions and physical conditions that occur as we age that could result in a senior being physically unable to drink or eat. Caregivers should recognize these signs, speak to the senior’s doctor and adjust accordingly. This may include switching to a liquid diet, changing dietary habits or using an IV at various times throughout the day.
4. Suspicious changes in finances.
Financial exploitation is a type of elder abuse that is occuring more often today. Work with your loved one to monitor accounts for significant withdrawals, sudden changes in his or her financial condition, and financial activity that would be impossible for the senior to have completed personally. Unfortunately, caregivers can take advantage of seniors and exploit their finances. Plan ahead to create a system of checks and balances to ensure suspicious activity is caught sooner than later.
While caregivers should be trustworthy and your elderly loved one should be safe, that is not always the case. We know how difficult this conversation can be to have with your loved one but do not wait to have it. Planning together to prevent threats like these make your senior less vulnerable. If you have questions on this issue or any elder law planning issue, do not wait to contact our law office.