How do I know if my elderly loved one has suffered abuse or neglect?

Recognizing the signs of elder abuse can help families keep their loved ones in Illinois safe.

Elder abuse is more common than many people think. The National Council on Aging reports that it happens in some form to around 1 in 10 people who are 60 or older. Unfortunately for many people in Illinois, the wrongdoing often goes unreported.

Families can do their part to uncover abuse or neglect and report it to the appropriate authorities. Identifying the symptoms and knowing what to do can help protect people in nursing homes and other situations in which abuse can occur.

Where it happens

When people think of elder abuse, they may picture someone living in a nursing home who is suffering physical trauma at the hands of a staff member. While this is one way the behavior can manifest, the truth is that it can take place in a number of ways. In fact, the NCOA states that family members are responsible for nearly 90 percent of all incidents involving abuse against an elderly person.

Forms of abuse

Physical abuse is often the most noticeable way someone has been harmed, as it can result in serious injury or even a fatal incident. Abuse against the elderly can also happen in the following ways:

  • Emotional: Someone intimidates, threatens or belittles the elderly person.
  • Psychological: This includes nonverbal actions such as ignoring or isolating someone.
  • Sexual: Sexual abuse happens when someone takes advantage of an elderly person through inappropriate or unwanted touching.
  • Neglect: Neglect occurs when someone who is tasked with caring for the elderly person ignores his or her needs.

There is also financial abuse, which the U.S. Department of Justice states is one of the most frequently reported forms of maltreatment.

Signs of abuse

An elderly person who is physically abused may have bruises, marks and broken bones. If that person has been neglected, it could manifest in bedsores, malnourishment and illness. In other circumstances, the person may become suddenly withdrawn from activities he or she typically enjoys or have an increased sense of irritability, depression or anxiety. Financial abuse often presents itself with inconsistent withdrawals from bank accounts, valuable items that have suddenly gone missing or altered financial documents.

Reporting elder abuse

The Illinois Department on Aging points out that there are certain professionals such as medical workers and adult care staff members who are required to report suspected abuse. However, anyone, at any time, can contact the state's adult protective services hotline to file a report.

Elder abuse is not only a crime, it can also do serious damage to an entire family. Prolonged abuse can cause physical pain and even death. People who have concerns about this topic should speak with a personal injury attorney in Illinois.