• Untreated injuries, sprains, dislocations, scratches or cuts.
• Sudden changes in the senior's behavior or withdrawn behavior in social settings.
• A caregiver's refusal to allow visitors.
• Dehydration, malnutrition, poor hygiene, untreated health problems or unsafe living conditions.
• Sudden changes in the senior's bank account or banking practices, additional names added to a person's bank signature card, unauthorized withdrawals of the senior's funds, use of the senior's ATM or credit card, and abrupt changes to a will or other financial documents.
The Elder Justice Act was signed into law in March as part of the health-care reform legislation. For the first time, hundreds of millions of federal dollars will be devoted to combating elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. Experts hope the law will help ensure that older Americans need no longer confront or fear abuse.
The Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act, also included in the health-care reform legislation, creates protections for those in long-term care facilities.
Consider these conditions: an aging population; a faltering economy; adult children struggling with joblessness, home foreclosures and the stresses of caring for parents, as well as their children; social service program cutbacks because of a lack of funds; and older, frail adults who are isolated and vulnerable. All of these combine to create the perfect climate for elder abuse — an underrecognized and rarely reported problem.
The National Center on Elder Abuse reports that Adult Protective Services organizations investigated 461,135 reports of elder and vulnerable adult abuse in 49 states in 2006 — a 16.3 percent increase from 2000. Nationwide, groups like Lutheran Social Services are on the front lines in battling such abuse.
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