Sarah cries when she relays the story while preparing lunch for her frail, elderly mother who suffers from dementia.  A year ago, Sarah and her sister hired a young woman to help care for their mother on Mondays while the sisters both worked.  Things seemed to be going well until Sarah received a call from her mother’s bank because an alert bank employee noticed odd patterns of spending in the elderly woman’s account.  Upon review, Sarah immediately suspected her mother’s care provider.  In addition to the unexplained purchases, the family had noticed that when they called on Mondays to speak with their mother, they were often told she was sleeping and could not come to the phone.  The family cancelled the care contract and notified local law enforcement.  Sarah later learned that for several months, her mother traveled in the front seat of her care-provider’s vehicle while the provider shopped with the elderly woman’s credit card.  Purses, cosmetics and video games were among the items purchased and returned later by the care provider for cash refunds.  Sarah’s mother was not physically harmed, but everyone in the family felt victimized and guilty.

When someone harms, exploits, or neglects a person age 60 or older, it is broadly defined as “Elder Abuse”.  Elder abuse can be physical, emotional, verbal, financial, or sexual in nature.  The harm can originate from anyone – a caregiver, a family member, or a neighbor. It can take place in the older person’s home, the home of a relative, or in an assisted living or nursing facility

The National Center on Elder Abuse cites recent studies that estimate that up to 3 to 5 percent of the elderly population in the U.S. have suffered abuse.  Most elder abuse victims are women.  Those most likely to suffer abuse are those who live alone, suffer from confusion, or are disabled and reliant on others for day to day care. Older people living with abuse may be afraid or embarrassed to talk about it. But if you know what to look for, you can help make sure your friends and loved ones stay safe. Many of the signs and symptoms of elder abuse overlap with symptoms of mental deterioration.  Elders who seems worried around a caregiver, who explain away unusual injuries, or seem to be suffering neglect may need help.  Missing money, unusual purchases, or missing personal items may indicate an elderly relation is being exploited financially.  A care provider’s refusal to allow you to visit or speak with the elderly person is a warning sign of an elder who may need your support. Care providers who do not have proper training, or over-worked healthcare providers, may cut corners and fail to provide needed care.  Elders with dementia are particularly at risk because they may not be able to tell someone that their care provider is threatening them or treating them poorly.

Many seniors don’t report abuse even if they’re able. Older adults may want to stay in their homes and may feel having an abusive caretaker is preferable to being forced to move.  Others may fear retaliation from the abuser, or believe that if they turn in their abusers, no one else will take care of them. When the abusive or neglectful caregivers are their children, elderly adults may be ashamed that their children are behaving abusively, blame themselves, or may not want children they love to get into trouble with the law.

There are things you can do to protect yourself, or an aging family member, from elder abuse.  Keeping in touch with family and friends who are alone is important.  If you are unhappy with the care you or an elderly relative are receiving, speak up!  Tell someone you trust, report abuse to a health care provider, or call an elder abuse helpline.  In Minnesota, the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center (MAARC) serves as a central point for the reporting of suspected elder maltreatment or abuse.  The MAARC toll-free phone number is 844-880-1574.

Making sure your financial and legal affairs are in order is another important protective measure.  Schromen Law, LLC can help you review care options and financial arrangements for your elderly parent or relative.

The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Schromen Law, LLC and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.

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