Know the Signs of Elder Abuse this Holiday Season

Elderly Man walking down the road in the winterThe holidays are a great time to catch up with family and friends. It is also a good time to check in on how elderly loved ones are doing. Make sure routine daily tasks are taken care of, such as cooking, cleaning, and bathing. It’s also important to be vigilant against elder abuse which happens far more often than we might think.

Unfortunately, it is estimated that only 1 in 25 cases of financial exploitation are reported, according to a Metlife study. Elderly people may be reluctant to report abuse or exploitation due to shame, denial, fear of being placed in a nursing home, fear of retaliation, guilty feeling, fear the abuser will get in trouble. By knowing the signs, you can help prevent elder abuse.

Signs of physical abuse may include the following: unusual behavior, unexplained injuries, withdrawal, lashing out, depression, isolation, physical marks, and poor hygiene. If an elderly person is in a nursing facility or bed-bound, check to make sure that they are turned or rotated properly. So why are elderly people susceptible to elder abuse? It’s believed that social isolation, mental impairment, and a trusting attitude puts them at risk.

Signs of financial abuse include refusing to answer questions about finances, unsavory new “friends”, unexplained bank withdrawals, unforeseeable or unnatural changes to legal documents like the will, and unnecessary defensiveness. Metlife estimates that the annual average loss from financial abuse or exploitation is at least $2.9 billion. It’s also estimated that instances of fraud perpetrated by strangers comprise 51% of reported financial abuse. However, financial abuse can and does occur by family members or by people known to the elderly loved one. Dollar losses are also reportedly higher around the holidays.

So what do you do if you suspect elder abuse? Communicate with the elderly person. Try to get as much information as possible about what’s going on including names and numbers. You can also notify the authorities. The elder abuse hotline number provided by the Alabama Department of Human Resources is 1-800-458-7214. The Alabama Attorney General’s office of consumer protection can be reached at 800-393-5658 to report scams. And of course, if there is an ongoing emergency, call 911. It’s also important to remove the elderly person from the situation. Finally, you may need to consult a lawyer for adult protective proceedings, such as guardianship and conservatorship.

What are some steps to maintain healthy aging and wellness? Exercise daily – including both your body and mind. It’s very important to stay socially engaged with family and friends. Take a daily walk and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Try learning something new or developing a new hobby. Finally, get more rest.