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What is Elder Abuse?
Sadly, elder abuse is a phenomenon that is prolific in today’s society. In 2010 nearly 6 million cases of elder abuse were reported in the U.S. Even more sadly, that number is undoubtedly an inaccurately low one. The National Center on Elder Abuse is convinced that numerous instances of elder abuse go on unreported or unrecognized. “Elder abuse” is defined by the Administration on Aging as “the intentional or negligent act by a family member or caregiver that causes harm or serious risk of harm to an older adult.” “Elder” is defined as anyone 60 years or older. Elder abuse can manifest in a variety of ways including: physical abuse (inflicting or threatening to inflict), sexual abuse, emotional or psychological abuse (mental or emotional anguish through verbal or non-verbal acts), financial or material exploitation (illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of the money or property of an elder), neglect (refusal or failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection), self-neglect (allowing activity by an elder that threatens his or her own health), or abandonment (desertion of an elder by anyone who has assumed responsibility or custody of that elder). Elder abuse also happens in a variety of environments, from an individual’s home to assisted living facilities or nursing homes.
Facts and Figures of Elder Abuse
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of elderly abuse cases in 2010 was 5,961,568. Looked at another way, the percent of the total elderly population in the US abused in 2010 was 9.5 %. The most common type of elder abuse was found to be neglect (58.5 % of reported cases). Most cases, 66%, were perpetuated by adult children or spouses of the elder while nursing homes and assisted living facilities made up a majority of the remainder. The percent of nursing homes that have been in violation of elder abuse laws was found to be at 36%. Elderly women are also 2/3rds more likely to be abused than elderly men. Indiana’s elder population in 2010 was 1,128,000. It is suspected that about 12% of that population was subject to some form of elder abuse.
Symptoms and Signs of Elder Abuse
Elder abuse can come in several forms. To help protect your loved ones, keep an eye out for these common signs of elder abuse as laid out by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA). While one sign does not necessarily indicate abuse, some tell-tale signs that there could be a problem include:
- Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.
- Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
- Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
- Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation.
- Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect.
- Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
- Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person are also signs.
Most important is to be alert. The suffering is often in silence. If you notice changes in personality or behavior, you should start to question what is going on.
If you think you or one of your loved ones has been the victim of elder abuse, please seek help. Each one of us has a responsibility to keep vulnerable elders safe from harm. The laws in most states also requires helping professions in the front lines — such as doctors and home health providers — to report suspected abuse or neglect. Call the police or 9-1-1 immediately if someone you know is in immediate, life-threatening danger. If the danger is not immediate, but you suspect that abuse has occurred or is occurring, please tell your concerns to the local adult protective services, long-term care ombudsman, or police. For a list of reporting numbers click: Where to Report Abuse. You can also reach the Eldercare Locator by telephone at 1-800-677-1116. Specially trained operators will refer you to a local agency that can help. The Eldercare Locator is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time.
Federal Agencies Relating to Elder Abuse
- National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA)– The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) serves as a national resource center dedicated to the prevention of elder mistreatment. To carry out its mission, the NCEA disseminates elder abuse information to professionals and the public, and provides technical assistance and training to states and to community-based organizations. The NCEA makes news and resources available on-line and an easy-to-use format; collaborates on research; provides training; identifies and provides information about promising practices and interventions; operates a list serve forum for professionals; and provides subject matter expertise on program and policy development.
- Administration on Aging (AoA)– The mission of the AoA is to develop a comprehensive, coordinated and cost-effective system of home and community-based services that helps elderly individuals maintain their health and independence in their homes and communities.
Indiana Agencies Relating to Elder Abuse
- Indiana Adult Protective Services (APS)- The Adult Protective Services Program was established to investigate reports and provide intervention and protection to vulnerable adults who are victims of abuse, neglect, or exploitation. APS field investigators operate out of the offices of county prosecutors throughout the state. https://www.in.gov/fssa/da/3479.htm.
- Indiana Department of Health, Long Term Care Division– The Division of Long Term Care consists of health care facilities (including nursing homes) licensing and certification programs. https://www.in.gov/isdh/.
- Indiana Family and Services Administration, Division of Aging and Rehabilitative Services– The Division of Aging establishes and monitors programs that serve the needs of Indiana seniors. The Division of Aging’s overarching vision is to re-define long-term care for consumers and providers. The Division of Aging focuses on home- and community-based services for the elderly and disabled and is also responsible for nursing home reimbursement policy and oversees the Residential Care Assistance Program. https://www.in.gov/fssa/2329.htm.
- Indiana Long Term Care Ombudsman Program- The Indiana Long Term Care Ombudsman Program is a federal and state funded program that provides advocacy and related services for consumers of congregate long term care services, regardless of age or payer source. Congregate settings include nursing facilities, residential care facilities, assisted living facilities, adult foster care homes and county operated residential care facilities. https://www.in.gov/fssa/da/3474.htm.
State and Federal Laws Relating to Elder Abuse
- Federal Older Americans Act (42 U.S.C. § 3001 et seq.)- provides definitions of elder abuse and authorizes the use of federal funds for the NCEA and for certain elder abuse awareness and coordination activities in states and local communities.
- Indiana Adult Protective Services (Ind. Code, Title 12, Art. 10, Chpt. 3 )– Indiana is the only state in which adult protective service is a criminal justice function. Full time investigators operate out of 18 county Prosecutors offices state wide. This Indiana law protects “endangered adults” (a person at least 18 who is incapable of managing or directing management of property or self-care who is exposed to neglect, battery, or exploitation). The law requires all persons to report all cases of suspected Abuse, Neglect, or Exploitation to either the nearest APS office or to Law Enforcement if the person has “reason to believe” a particular person is an endangered adult. Failure to do so is a Class B misdemeanor punishably by up to $1,000 fine and 180 days in jail. This increases to a Class D felony if the proceeds involved are more than $10,000 and the endangered adult is at least 60 years of age.
- Indiana Elder Justice Act (Title XI of the Social Security Act Section 1150B)- Requires employers of long-term care facilities that receive at least $10,000 in federal funds (Medicare and Medicaid payments) to report any “reasonable suspicion of a crime” involving the elderly. Facilities must notify all of their employees of the reporting obligation on an annual basis and post notices. The report must be filed within 24 hours or 2 hours if “serious bodily injury” is involved. An individual who fails to report can be fined up to $300,000 and the person may also be banned from working in a health care facility for up to 3 years.
Contact Us for Legal Assistance
If you or your loved one has been the victim of abuse, exploitation, or neglect, you are not alone. Many people care and can help. If you believe that you have a claim for elder abuse on behalf of yourself or a loved one contact Indianapolis elder abuse lawyers at the Law Office of William W. Hurst immediately at 800-363-0808 for a free consultation. Anyone filing a complaint concerning an endangered adult in good faith is immune from civil or criminal liability. We will advise you of all your legal rights and if we represent your family, we only charge a fee if we are successful in your case. See our website: https://www.https://billhurst.com/m or call 800-636-0808.