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Determining When To Involve Authorities In Suspected Elder Abuse

When is it time to get the police involved in elder abuseSome cases of elder abuse are easier to recognize, making involving the authorities an apparent decision. An elderly person that tells you that their care giver or family member is abusing them and asks for your help makes that call easy to make. However, many times the abuse is not reported or even admitted by the elderly person and you must make the decision to involve authorities on your own observations.

Types Of Elder Abuse

Most authorities such as the National Center on Elder abuse recognize seven types of elder abuse that affect an estimated one in fourteen elderly persons in the U.S. Some elderly may be victims of one or a combination of these types of abuse.

  • Physical. Using force to inflict pain or injury
  • Emotional. Inflicting emotional pain or distress using verbal or non-verbal acts.
  • Sexual. Any sexual activity imposed on an elderly person that is non-consensual.
  • Neglect. Refusal or failure to take care of an elderly persons needs (food, hygiene, health care, etc.) that a caregiver or family member is responsible for.
  • Financial/Material. Using an elderly person’s money or assets for personal gain through manipulation, fear or theft.
  • Abandonment. Desertion of an elderly person that a caregiver or family member has taken responsibility for.
  • Self-neglect. Elderly that no longer are caring for themselves and are threatening their own health and safety.

Noticing Signs Of Elder Abuse

Unfortunately, in many cases the elderly person may be ashamed or in fear of admitting that they are being abused or need help. Most cases of abuse are from spouses or adult children that the victim loves and does not necessarily want to press charges against for fear of losing them or being alone. Even when the abuser is a health care professional such as an in-home caregiver or even at a facility such as a nursing home, the victim may be afraid or ashamed to admit they are being abused. As a neighbor, family member or just concerned citizen, it may become necessary to report abuse to authorities when the victim is unwilling or unable to do so themselves. Signs that are cause for concern include:

  • Physical signs of abuse. Bruises, injuries, poor hygiene and unkempt appearance all may be signs that an elderly person is being neglected or abused.
  • Change in behavior. If the elderly person becomes withdrawn, fearful or emotionally upset, it may be signs of abuse.
  • Changes in finances. Large sums of money missing or being transferred to another, property being used or taken by a caregiver or the elderly person receiving unneeded services all may be signs that they are being abused for financial gain of another.

Reports of elder abuse can be made confidentially and anonymously in Illinois. The Illinois Department on Aging protects those who report abuse by not releasing their identity without their permission unless ordered by the court. Reporters of elder abuseare also protected from prosecution from criminal, civil or professional action when cooperating in an investigation. Anyone that suspects elder abuse should contact authorities in their area. If they believe the person is in immediate jeopardy, they should call the police. Otherwise, every state has their own agency that protects the welfare of the elderly. In Illinois, you can call the statewide hotline at 1-866-800-1409. to find the correct authorities in other states, you can call the nationwide hotline at 1-800-677-1116.

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