Elder abuse is not just physical abuse – it can take the form of neglect, abandonment, financial exploitation, emotional abuse and even sexual abuse. Caretakers, spouses, children, nursing home staff, assisted living staff, etc. can all be perpetrators. According to the National Council on Aging, more than half of all elder abuse is committed by a family member.
Sadly, 1 in 10 Americans 60 and over have been the victim’s elder abuse victims. Even worse, only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to police.
Statistics show that there were 4.5 million senior citizens 65+ residing in Florida in 2019. With so many elderly residing in Florida’s communities, this is a hotspot for elderly abuse.
If you notice a friend, relative, or loved one exhibiting any of the following signs, this could be an indicator that they are the victim of elder abuse.
- Physical abuse: broken bones, burns, bruises, pressure marks, or any other unexplained injuries that seem to be happening frequently.
- Financial abuse: missing personal items, finds missing from their accounts, missing debit or credit cards, missing cash or checks, sudden changes to a will, or any changes to financial documents that could indicate a forged signature.
- Emotional abuse: sudden personality or mood changes, depression, anxiety or agitation, refusing visitors, sudden weight loss, fear of caretaker, lack of communication, unusual behavior of any kind.
- Neglect: dehydration, weight loss, dirty clothes, soiled bed linens, lack of personal hygiene, complaining of being hungry or thirsty, bedsores, lack of necessities like hearing aides or a walker, untreated or unreported health issues, deteriorating health.
- Sexual abuse: bruising to the genitals or surrounding areas, bleeding from the genitals, torn or stained clothing, stained bedding, STIs or infections, refusing visitors, sudden personality changes.
Why It Is Important to Report Elder Abuse
There are numerous reasons why you should report any suspected instances of elder abuse. Reporting the abuse can help the person get out of a bad situation so that they can receive the care they need for any physical injuries or emotional harm.
- Reporting any abuse can keep the perpetrator from doing it to anyone else in the future.
- If abuse is happening at a nursing home or assisted living facility, then that institution can take the proper steps to make sure it never happens again. Sometimes abuse happens due to lack of training or improper staffing, so the facility can develop better policies and prevent abuse from recurring.
- The victim of abuse can file an injury claim seeking damages for the abuse they suffered. They could be entitled to compensation for medical bills, therapy costs, etc, because of the abuse they endured.
- The more reporting that happens, the better the state of Florida can keep track of how big the problem is.
What to Do If You See Any Signs of Elder Abuse or Witness Acts of Elder Abuse
If you think that any elderly person is in immediate danger, the first thing to do is call 911. The victim should be removed from the situation before any reporting is done.
Once the victim is safe, then you can document any harm that you discovered, such as taking pictures of any wounds or injuries, inappropriate use of restraints, damaged clothing, etc. In addition to photographic evidence, you want to take actual notes of what you have seen so that you do not forget any information that could be helpful. Include specific information, such as dates and times, the person’s name who carried out the abuse, the place the abuse occurred, etc.
As we mentioned before, not all abuse is physical so if you are suspicious of financial exploitation/abuse, you should report this to police right away so that they can launch an immediate investigation. Treat the financial theft as if your own assets were stolen, and document what was taken, the date, the time, if a specific person was involved, etc.
If your loved one is being abused, or even if you just suspect abuse of some kind, you should speak to a personal injury lawyer who specializes in elderly abuse. Our Florida Elder Abuse Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are always available to discuss your potential case and help you understand how to take action.
How to Report Elder Abuse
The state of Florida takes all instances of abuse very seriously. Anyone who witnesses any form of abuse, is required to report it. This can be done through the state’s website, by calling the Florida Abuse Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873) or TTY: 1-800-955-8771, or faxing your report to 1-800-914-0004. Continue reading