The United Nations implemented World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) in 2006. In the U.S., the month of June is recognized as Elder Abuse Prevention Month. Locally, an Awareness Day is hosted on June 15th at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. WEAAD is to promote awareness regarding the poor treatment of older adults that occurs too often.
Across the U.S. each year there are over one-million reported incidents of elderly individuals being abused. Many more cases are believed to go unreported each year as well. Older adults may be subjected to abuse, neglected, or exploited by those who they have regular contact with. There is also a significant financial impact, as seniors lose an estimated $2.6 billion to dishonest individuals each year.
Types of Elder Abuse
- Physical: Causing pain or harm to the individual such as by kicking, hitting, or inappropriately using restraints
- Financial: May include theft of cash or possessions. Those committing scams or fraud are increasingly targeting older adults. Roughly 20% of those over the age of 65 are abused in some type of financial manner.
- Sexual: Any actions of a sexual nature that is not consensual. Those suffering from problems such as dementia may not be capable of truly consenting.
- Psychological: May include the use of intimidation or verbal threats. This abuse may go unreported, as the victim may fear reprisal.
- Neglect: Occurs when victims are under the care of an individual who fails to address their basic needs. Victims may not have access to food, water, or proper hygiene.
Often Unreported Abuse
One primary reason that elder abuse goes unreported is the victim may have Alzheimer's or dementia and is not cognizant of the abuse or capable of adequately communicating. In recent years advocates have significantly increased awareness regarding elder abuse, particularly those victims residing in long-term care settings. All states now have designated agencies to investigate such claims.
Demographics clearly show the continuing rise in the percentage of the population who are elderly in the U.S; therefore, the potential for elder abuse will increase as more people rely on nursing-home type care. It is critical for those with loved ones in nursing homes to recognize some potential indicators of abuse. Some of the common signs of abuse include bed sores, rapid weight loss, or falling injuries.
Pursuing a Claim
Proving these claims can be challenging and includes the following:
- That the defendant owed a duty to care for the plaintiff. For example, nursing facilities are required to maintain basic standards in caring for residents. This includes tending to the resident's nutritional needs, maintaining reasonably sanitary conditions, and providing proper supervision.
- The defendant breached (failed) to execute this duty. Evidence that suggests substandard care may include medical records, eyewitnesses, photographs, etc.
- That there was a causal relationship between the failure and the harm the victim incurred. Establishing this link may require countering defense claims such as that a falling injury was the result of the resident's instability, rather than a failure in staff supervision.
If you suspect that a loved one has been the victim of abuse or neglect it is critical to consult with an experienced attorney.