Wednesday, June 15th 2011 marks the 6th annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) and the World Health Organization at the United Nations established WEAAD to raise awareness associated with the neglect and abuse of the world’s elderly population.
The event began in 2006 and involved several hundred organizations and governments from the local neighborhood level to the international level. The WEAAD was initiated to support the United Nations International plan of Action and assist in helping the communities of the world realize the magnitude of elder abuse.
Worldwide, physical and mental abuse of the elderly is largely unrecognized as an issue. The INPEA encourages communities, organizations and governments to organize activities/events to raise awareness and requests that supporters of the cause wear something purple on behalf of the elderly.
Elder abuse is the advantageous exploitation of an elder by someone else by either physical, sexual, emotional, and/or material swindling, and is a crime punishable by law.
· Physical abuse involves inflicting pain or injury to another. For example, hitting, shoving, and restraining are all forms of physical abuse.
· Sexual abuse is non-consensual sexual contact of any kind, and elders that are incapable of consenting are automatically considered sexual abused.
· Emotional abuse is to cause another mental or emotional suffering, and may include humiliating, isolating and threatening the victim.
· Material and financial exploitation pertains to the unapproved use of material possessions or finances of a sound-minded elder by another for his/her own gains.
· Neglect relates to the failure of the caretaker of an elder to provide goods or services required to avoid physical or mental harm. Abandonment and denial of food/drink and/or health related services are all forms of neglect.
Signs of physical abuse may include:
· Bruises, welts, restraint markings
· Broken bones
· Open wounds, cuts, punctures
· Untreated injuries in various stages of healing
· Sudden change in an elder’s behavior
· Caregiver’s refusal to allow visitation alone with an elder
· Elder’s report of being struck or restrained
Signs of sexual abuse may include:
· Torn or stained underclothing
· Sudden change in an elder’s behavior
· Elder’s report of being sexually assaulted or raped
Signs of emotional abuse may include:
· Elder appears emotionally upset or agitated
· Elder becomes extremely withdrawn and refuses to communicate
· Elder’s report of being verbally or emotionally mistreated
Signs of material/ financial exploitation:
· Abrupt changes in will or other documents
· Disappearance of funds or possessions
· Addition of others to elder’s bank accounts and/or credit and ATM cards
· Discovery of a forged signature on behalf of the elder on titles, deeds, wills, financial documents, etc.
· Sudden appearance of previously ‘absent’ relatives
· Sudden transfer of assets to a family member or someone outside of the family
· Unnecessary services provided
· Elder’s report of loss of materials/ finances
Signs of neglect:
· Dehydration, malnutrition, poor hygiene
· Untreated health concerns, such as bed sores, open wounds, and missed doctor appointments
· Inadequate living conditions, such as lack of heat, water, and electricity
· Unsanitary living conditions, including skin/head lice, soiled bedding, and feces/urine (to include pets also)
· Elder’s report of neglect
According to 2009 statistical data, the United States alone has 39.6 million residents 65 years of age and older accounting for about 1 in every 8 citizens. This number continues to rise every year and more than two million American seniors annually are victims of abuse based on as few as 1 in 6 reporting the abuse.
What can you do to help your loved ones and other elderly American citizens?
· Be cognizant in changes in an elder’s moods and behaviors.
· Stay mindful of the various signs of abuse.
· Many victims are reluctant to report abuse because they are fearful of threats, loss of independence, or the abuse may come from a loved one, so the issue is downplayed.
· Maintain constant and consistent communication lines open, even if from several states away.
· Report concerns immediately; if a life-threatening situation may exist call 911 immediately.
· Contact a reputable law firm.
Nursing homes, retirement homes and assisted living facilities are often the unfortunate culprits in elderly abuse instances. Too often to our dismay, cases are brought to our attention involving these institutions. It is the responsibility of the institution to guarantee that its employees act in accordance with the highest level of integrity while caring for our elderly. The nursing home abuse attorneys at Burnetti P.A. are here to guide families affected by elder abuse through the justice proceedings. If you suspect nursing home abuse, call Burnetti, P.A. at 1-888-BURNETTI for your legal needs.