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Tips for recognizing the warning signs of elder abuse or neglect

Given California’s large elderly population and reported rates of mistreatment, it’s crucial for families to know the warning signs of abuse or neglect.

Entrusting the health and well-being of an elderly relative to a caretaker or nursing home can be a difficult decision. Many people in Oakland take comfort in knowing that their loved ones will receive attentive, compassionate care through these arrangements. Tragically, however, this isn’t always the case, as countless reports of elder abuse and nursing home neglect indicate.

These issues may be especially prevalent here in California. According to the Office of the Attorney General, the state had over twice the rate of reported cases of elder abuse, neglect or exploitation that other states did in 2009, which is the last year for which this data is available. The state’s population of older adults, which is expected to double by 2025, is also increasing faster than that of other states. This makes knowing how to detect elder abuse or neglect crucial for many families in California.

Monitor new health problems

Family members should be alert to adverse changes in an elderly adult’s health that may actually stem from caretaker or nursing home neglect. For example, according to the Administration on Aging, weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration or untreated medical issues may be symptoms of neglect. Bedsores and poor hygiene can be signs of negligent care. Fall injuries or other preventable mishaps may also indicate that an elderly adult isn’t receiving adequate supervision or attention.

Family members should also be alert to physical conditions or health issues that may have been caused by abuse. Some victims of abuse may suffer from inexplicable or frequent injuries. Family members should also recognize abrasions, bruises or pressure marks as potential symptoms of abusive treatment.

Know the emotional signs

In addition to watching for these physical warning signs, family members should pay attention to emotional or behavioral changes that may occur in victims of abuse. These changes include:

  • Increased silence or withdrawal from normal activities
  • Changes in alertness or responsiveness
  • Symptoms of depression that previously weren’t present

It’s important for relatives to remember that victims of elder abuse or neglect may not directly report what is happening. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, one study estimates that as few as one out of 14 cases of abuse are ever reported to authorities. Therefore, family members should not wait for an elderly loved one to ask for help or confirm that abuse is occurring.

Take action early

People who suspect elder abuse or neglect is occurring should report their concerns to law enforcement authorities. If this mistreatment is confirmed, family members may also benefit from speaking with an attorney about seeking recompense. An attorney may be able to offer advice on documenting the abuse or neglect and pursuing appropriate compensation for any physical injuries, emotional trauma and other lingering effects of the mistreatment.

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