There are some things in life that touch everyone, that affect every person. It’s been said, for example, that everyone has in some way been touched by cancer. It’s easy to see how that might be the case. Another thing that is most likely true is that everyone has at least one relationship with a person over the age of 60. Older Americans are everywhere – family members, friends, teachers, doctors, neighbors, bus drivers, pilots, etc. One estimate is that between 2003 and 2013 the population aged 60 and over increased 30.7 percent from 48.1 million to 62.8 million.
Sadly, each year, hundreds of thousands of adults over the age of 60 are also abused, neglected, or financially exploited. It’s hard to get an exact count, or really even a rough one, however. Research suggests that fear often prevents older adults from admitting or reporting that they’ve been abused. That could translate into more than 80 percent of cases being ignored because of shame, fear of consequences, self-blame or a fear of losing independence. Mix that with the fact that many older adults are socially isolated, and there are fewer people likely to report on the abused person’s behalf.
Surprisingly, there is currently no federal law dedicated to preventing elder abuse. The definition of elder abuse isn’t consistent from state to state, which makes it hard to clearly describe and therefore identify. Also, there’s no uniform reporting system in place in this country. The U.S. has no national standard for defining, identifying, reporting, OR investigating elder abuse. And that’s despite the fact that about one in every seven, or 14.1 percent, of the population is an older American.
Know anyone over the age of 60? Definitely. Know anyone under the supervision of a care facility or home aide? Probably. Here are a few signs of possible abuse to look out for:
- Bedsores/pressure ulcers
- Inappropriate use of physical or chemical restraints
- Lack of cleanliness, grooming, personal or medical care
- Lack of clothing appropriate for the weather
- Lack of medical aids (e.g., glasses, hearing aid, walker, etc.)
- Significant weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration
- Unexplained injuries or injuries inconsistent with the explanation
- Unsanitary conditions
- Unusual activity in bank accounts or unpaid bills
- Withdrawal, depression, or isolation.
Now, read through this list of warning signs again. How many of these could be explained away as being changes naturally associated with aging or a general decline in health? Injury and illness can mask the signs of abuse, and it’s an easy excuse. How might a person with dementia accurately recount abuse or be taken seriously when they do?
It’s safe to say that most of us don’t want our friends, parents or grandparents being hurt by caregivers. We also don’t want to think about it. However, the safety and dignity of these people depends on their friends and family being diligent. It’s up to friends and family members to pay attention and ask questions.
One way to file a complaint about a licensed health care facility or service provider in Georgia is to contact the Department of Community Health by calling 1-800-878-6442 or visiting Healthcare Facility Regulation or http://dch.georgia.gov. The Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS), Division of Aging Services, Adult Protective Services (APS) investigates reports of abuse, neglect, and/or exploitation of older persons (65+) who do not reside in long-term care facilities. You can contact them by calling 1-866-55AGING or using their online report form
If you suspect that an older person’s injury is the result of abuse or neglect, or if you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with one of the Georgia elder abuse attorneys at The Mann Law Firm. We have over 50 years of experience helping people, and we can help you. Based in Macon, we believe that all patients deserve a safe place to live and the right to be free from abuse. Contact us to discuss your unique situation by calling (478) 742-3381 or by filling out our online form.