How to Recognize & Report Elder Abuse
Unfortunately, as the elderly population increases, so do incidents of elder abuse. “Elder abuse is an umbrella term that may include physical, sexual, or emotional abuse; financial exploitation; and neglect, abandonment or self-neglect.” As we age, we often become less able to make wise decisions or to defend ourselves against abusers of all types, including a family member who may have run out of patience with all that the caregiving process involves.
It may be difficult to imagine that a loved one or any elderly person you are acquainted with could be the victim of abuse. Even if you suspect something is wrong, your first thought might be that changes in behavior or unexplained injuries are the result of dementia or the infirmities of old age. You don’t want to erroneously report a family member or caregiver. Even if you’re sure that abuse of some kind—it could be financial—is taking place, you might not be sure how to go about filing a report or what will happen if and when you do. If the person who is taking care of your loved one is the source of the abuse, you might worry about who will care for your loved one if this person is forced to stay away. It’s even possible that your loved one will deny that abuse is taking place and make it almost impossible for you to change his or her circumstances. In spite of all these potential roadblocks, it’s critical to do something!
What to do?
Step 1: Learn more about the symptoms and signs that elder abuse is taking place. Probably physical abuse is the easiest to recognize, but other forms of abuse can be more difficult pin down. This blog space is too short to list all of them, but there are excellent resources online that you can go to. Here are just three that will give you advice on how to recognize the signs of many types of abuse:
Step 2: Write down the signs of abuse that you observe and the dates on which they occur. Take photos or videos to substantiate claims. When reporting abuse, it’s important to be as specific as possible about why you are concerned. Talk to the person who you think is being abused and include what they say in your report. If you are the person who is being abused, it’s important to report the same things.
Paid caregivers are mandated reporters in ND. A mandated reporter must report if in an official or professional capacity, he or she:
- has knowledge that a vulnerable adult has been subjected to abuse or neglect; or
- observes a vulnerable adult being subjected to conditions or circumstances that reasonably would result in abuse or neglect.
- Important:A mandated reporter is required to report as soon as possible.
Step 3: Find out to whom abuse should be reported in your location and do it:
- If this is an emergency, i.e., the person’s life is in danger, call 911.
- If you have the authority to do so, remove the person from the abusive situation.
- Tell the family. Sometimes family members are not aware that their loved one has been abused or is in an abusive situation. If you are the victim, you can also tell your doctor or a friend who you can trust.
- In North Dakota, call Vulnerable Adult Protective Services. This link also other information about vulnerable adults.
- Call the Adult Protective Services (APS) agency in your state. They are usually the “first responder.” To find the number, visit:
- TheND State Resources section of the National Center on Elder Abuse website
- The Eldercare Locator website or calling 1-800-677-1116. Trained operators will refer you to a local agency that can help.
- If you suspect nursing home abuse, call yourLong Term Care Ombudsman.
- In cases involving sexual abuse or assault, local police, sheriffs or prosecuting attorneys may investigate and prosecute abuse. In states where elder abuse is a crime, there may be a requirement to report suspected abuse to a law enforcement agency.
- Additional resources:
What happens next?
The APS or VAPS agency screens calls for potential seriousness. It keeps the information it receives confidential. If the investigators find abuse or neglect, they arrange for services to help protect the victim. Elder abuse doesn’t go away. If you suspect abuse, armed with information make that call as soon as possible.
Dakota Travel Nurse Home Care employees are committed to fighting elder abuse through education and raising awareness in our community.