Elder abuse is a growing concern in Washington D.C., and across the country. For years, the issue of elder abuse was rarely talked. Possible abuse make have ignored by friends and family members who doubted that the problem could be so widespread. Fortunately for victims, the issue is gaining more attention. Concerned family members can report suspected abuse and help put an end to elder abuse while seeking compensation for their injuries.
What is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse comes in many forms. Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological. Neglect, abandonment, unreasonable confinement, and the failure to properly care for another person can also be a form of elder abuse. Intimidation and financial exploitation can also constitute elder abuse.
Elder abuse can also be committed by anyone who comes into contact with the victim. This includes nursing home employees, financial advisors, home health aides, friends, relatives, and even spouses.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services, elder abuse affects almost 5 million Americans every year. Despite this growing problem, only one in 24 cases of elder abuse is reported to the authorities. Incidents of elder abuse are expected to grow as the population continues to age. By 2050, seniors aged 65 and older will be almost 20% of the population.
The National Research Council defined elder mistreatment as “(a) intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm, whether or not intended, to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trust relationship to the elder or (b) failure by a caregiver to satisfy the elder's basic needs or to protect the elder from harm.”
Elder Abuse in Washington DC
Elder abuse can be a violation of Washington D.C. criminal and civil law, as well as federal law. In Washington D.C., the Department of Human Services (DHS) and Adult Protective Services (APS) is charged with protecting adults from exploitation, abuse, and neglect.
According to the DHS, “adult abuse generally refers to mistreatment of an older person by someone who has a special relationship with the elder such as a spouse, sibling, child, friend or caregiver.” Individuals can report suspected abuse, neglect, self-neglect and exploitation to the APS.
Nursing Home Abuse
Elder abuse may include nursing home abuse. Nursing home residents may be more susceptible to abuse because they may have few visits from outside friends or family members. They may also have limited physical ability or mental capacity. These vulnerable individuals may be physically, emotionally, or sexually abused and be unable to report the abuse.
Mandatory Reporting Laws
The law requires “mandatory reporters” to report suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of the elderly. Mandatory reporters may include individuals who work in the healthcare industry, social workers, bank managers, police officers, social workers, dentists, and other therapists.
Mandatory reporters are supposed to provide the name, age, address, and location of the person being abused, and other information about the abuse situation. Failure to report suspected abuse may result in a fine, and in some cases, a misdemeanor criminal charge. The mandatory generally has the right to have their identity kept confidential. In most cases, the mandatory reporter is also immune from civil and criminal liability for reporting suspected abuse.
Signs of Possible Elder Abuse
One of the biggest problems with elder abuse is that it so often goes unnoticed or unreported. Friends, family members, and healthcare workers may fail to report elder abuse because they do not know what to look for, think the injuries are a symptom of some other problem or are afraid of reporting abuse if they are not 100% sure.
There are a number of warning signs of possible abuse or neglect. This includes physical injuries, such as bedsores, bruises, burns, malnutrition, dehydration, or unexplained weight loss. It may also involve mental changes, including sudden changes in alertness, depression, withdrawal from regular activities, and frequent arguments. Sudden changes in finances or banking transactions can be a sign of possible financial exploitation.
Washington D.C. Elder Abuse Attorneys
If you suspect an elderly parent or family member may be suffering abuse, you may not know where to turn for help. The caretakers or nursing home may or may not be aware of the abuse. They may claim they will take care of the problem, only to ignore it, or retaliate against the victim. Your elderly loved ones need an advocate to fight for them and make sure they get the compensation they deserve for their pain and suffering. If you or someone you love has been injured through elder abuse, please contact the team at Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.