Woman in wheelchair looking outsideVictims of elder abuse and neglect are often frail or vulnerable seniors being cared for at home by a relative or caregiver. The caregiver may be too frail or too overwhelmed to provide proper care. In the worst case, the caregiver may intentionally abuse or neglect the senior. If you have concerns about the care of an elderly person, intervene at once - before the situation becomes more serious.

Neglect Means Failing to Provide Necessities

The term "elder neglect" refers to the failure of a person who has a duty or responsibility to provide basic care and the necessities of life to an elderly person. The responsible person may be an adult child, other relative, caregiver, or anyone else who has agreed to provide services and necessities. Examples of necessities include food and water, shelter, clothing, medication, safety, personal care, and financial support. In some states, anyone 60 years or older is considered an elder. In other state, the threshold is age 65. Self-neglect also occurs when an elderly person stops engaging in basic self-care.

Look for Signs of Elder Neglect

When visiting with an elderly person, be alert for signs of neglect or abuse. Physical signs may include bed sores, poor hygiene, dehydration, or weight loss due to malnutrition. The home may not have running water, heat, or proper wiring. Living conditions may be unsanitary. Medical problems may go untreated, due to missed doctor appointments or unfilled prescriptions. The senior may be left alone for long periods of time without food or assistance to the bathroom. The person may have unexplained bruises or broken bones.

Report Your Concerns

Laws vary from state to state, but most jurisdictions require that professionals such as nurses and physicians report suspected cases of elder neglect or abuse. Although they are not legally required to do so, concerned citizens may also report elder neglect or abuse. In an emergency, contact law enforcement or the emergency medical system. In a non-emergency situation, call the local adult protective services agency to report your concerns. The agency will send an investigator to the home to gather more information and, if necessary, take steps to correct the situation and protect the elderly person.

Help to Prevent Elder Abuse

Laws vary from state to state, but most jurisdictions require that professionals such as nurses and physicians report suspected cases of elder neglect or abuse. Although they are not legally required to do so, concerned citizens may also report elder neglect or abuse. In an emergency, contact law enforcement or the emergency medical system. In a non-emergency situation, call the local adult protective services agency to report your concerns. The agency will send an investigator to the home to gather more information and, if necessary, take steps to correct the situation and protect the elderly person.

An Elder Law Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding neglect and abuse of the elderly is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an elder law lawyer.

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