Every year, cases of elderly abuse are reported in high numbers. When one considers that the victims are usually frail and vulnerable, typically unable to help themselves and often dependent on others to meet even their most basic needs, the unfortunate and all too frequent recurrence of abuse cries for closer examination.
Elder Abuse involves the knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a dependent adult, but can also include self-neglect or even self-harm. Legislatures in all 50 states have passed some form of elder abuse prevention laws. Elder abuse is so common and these laws so complex that there are attorneys who specialize as elder law attorneys.
Older adults may neglect themselves by not managing or caring about their own personal health and well-being, which could be the result of anything from depression, to mental illness, to warning signs of deterioration. Common needs that older adults may ignore or deny themselves include:
- Sustenance (food or water)
- Cleanliness (bathing and personal hygiene)
- Adequate clothing for climate protection
- Proper shelter
- Adequate safety
- Clean and healthy surroundings
- Medical attention for serious illness
- Essential medications
Some older adults may choose to deny themselves a degree of health or safety benefits, which may not be self-neglect. This may simply be their personal choice. Caregivers and other responsible individuals must honor these choices if the older adult is of sound mind.
Doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel can play a vital role in assisting elder abuse victims since they tend to spend more time with the elderly than any other professionals. One study showed that elderly individuals make approximately 13.9 visits per year to a physician. Unfortunately, physicians tend to only report 2% of elder abuse cases for many reasons, including lack of current knowledge concerning state laws on elder abuse, concern about angering the family of the self-abused and ruining the relationship with the elderly patient, possible court appearances, lack of cooperation from elderly patients or families, and lack of time and reimbursement.
How to Speak to Your Loved Ones About Self-abuse and neglect
If you suspect a loved one may be a victim of self-abuse or neglect, discuss your concerns with the person and encourage him or her to share any apprehensions now or at any time in the future. Reassure your family member that you are there to listen and assist in whatever way possible. Sometimes the elderly may be unwilling to discuss elder abuse due to embarrassment, stigma, or even medical conditions. Remind your loved one that you will continue to be there for them and that you are there to protect them from harm.
If you have any questions about elder neglect, do not hesitate to contact Pasadena elder law attorney Christopher B. Johnson.