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Recognizing Signs of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is a real danger for many in their golden years. Growing awareness of the issue nationally has brought to light some horrific acts perpetrated by caregivers at long-term care facilities. As more baby boomers retire and need extended care, it will become a central issue affecting senior citizens in the United States. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reports that more than one million Americans over the age of 65 have experienced some type of abuse, neglect or exploitation by caregivers. Most victims of elder abuse suffer in silence. For every one case of reported abuse, five additional cases go unreported. Because of this, it is important for caregivers and family members to know the signs of elder abuse.

Signs of physical abuse include unexplained bruises or welts. Caregivers may try to explain these away as broken bones or dislocations, so it is important to inquire further to find if abuse is being hidden. Also, broken eyeglasses or frames, torn clothing and an unsanitary smell can all be indications that an elderly person has suffered abuse or restraint.

Dramatic changes in a person’s demeanor may signal emotional abuse. A charming and happy person who falls into a sullen and emotional state may have experienced mental pain or distress. Other signs of abuse include a loved one becoming unusually combative or not wanting you to leave. Strained or tense relationships between elders and caregivers are also telling.

Financial exploitation is just as serious as physical or emotional abuse, in that it robs senior citizens of their finances and their dignity. Loved ones should be wary of sudden changes in an elder’s financial condition. Abrupt complaints of people being cash-strapped or signs of unpaid bills could mean that a caregiver is siphoning money. Also, suspicious changes in wills, powers of attorney or other estate planning documents are classic signs of financial exploitation.

Contact Proper Authorities

Finding elder abuse takes a critical and caring eye for detail. If you suspect that your loved one is being abused, report it to the proper authorities. In New Jersey, the Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly investigates more than 3,000 cases of abuse and neglect annually for those over 60 living in long-term care facilities. You can call them at: 877-582-6995. You can also report suspected elder abuse with the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, part of the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General. If you feel your elderly loved one is in immediate danger, contact the police.

If your loved one has been abused, you can hold the offenders responsible by obtaining compensation for damages, including punitive damages. New Jersey also allows recovery of attorney’s fees and other costs of a lawsuit if a long-term care facility is found guilty of abuse or neglect, so bringing a lawsuit may not cost you anything. Contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your case.

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