South Carolina has an aging population. Our state is also home to a number of senior care facilities in light of the number of retirees who come to enjoy our weather. As people grow older, it becomes increasingly likely that they will need to rely on the help of others to make it through the day. We place a great deal of trust in the caregivers and staff at nursing homes and other residential facilities. Along with trust, they are receiving money to take care of our loved ones. Sometimes, however, caregivers fail in their duty for any number of reasons. The elderly population is particularly vulnerable to abuse, often due to mental impairment caused by aging or disease processes such as Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Here’s what you need to know about the different kinds of elder abuse, and what you can do to prevent or stop it.
Four Types of Elder Abuse
Unfortunately, abuse of our seniors is more common than you might expect. One 2015 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that as much as 10 percent of the elderly population experienced some form of abuse. Here are the most common types, and what to look out for:
- Physical abuse. When caretakers are physically violent with the elderly, it is perhaps one of the most obvious forms of harm. Any act of striking or hitting an elderly person, pushing, shoving, or otherwise acting to cause physical harm is considered physical abuse. Unexplained or reoccurring bruises, cuts or abrasions (often caused by restraints), burns, and even broken bones are warning signs to look out for. Victims are often reluctant to speak out about physical harm, and may offer excuses or conflicting reasons for injuries, when the reality is that an aggressive caregiver is the problem.
- Sexual abuse. The elderly are often physically vulnerable, unable to fend off unwanted molestation. The victims may have bruising on the chest or genital regions, bleeding, and new and otherwise unexplainable difficulty standing up or walking, Victims of sexual acts often become withdrawn and depressed.
- Emotional or verbal abuse. This type of damage is more insidious than physical violence, as it doesn’t leave marks on the skin, but is just as harmful to the victim. Verbal aggression, insults, and threats directed at the victim are the most obvious signs, but only if the abuser continues to behave poorly in front of witnesses. You may notice that a victim of emotional or verbal abuse is frightened of or intimidated by the aggressor. The victim may also start to show behavioral changes, such as rocking back and forth or even biting. Emotional abuse can also involve intentionally isolating the victim from friends and family, leaving him or her to suffer alone, and in silence.
- Financial abuse. Fraudulently taking advantage of an elderly person’s finances is another common form of exploitation. Caregivers may use the victim’s checkbook, credit cards, or other accounts to siphon off money either without consent or by deception. He or she may pressure the victim or outright lie to get the victim to sign documents, including powers of attorney. An element of identity theft is common, as well, as the abuser may simply forge signatures. Less sophisticated theft may involve simply stealing cash or other physical assets over time.
Seniors are also subject to neglect, which happens when an elderly person simply isn’t cared for appropriately. It may include a failure to provide medication or medical care, food, water, personal hygiene assistance, or even personal safety. Neglect may be purposeful, or it may happen unintentionally, such as when a nursing home is understaffed. Either way, there’s simply no excuse for elder neglect. Nursing homes and caregivers have a duty to their patients, and when that duty is breached, they must be held accountable, plain and simple.
Get Help Taking On the Abusers
If you suspect elder abuse is happening to someone you love, it’s imperative that you seek help right away. An experienced attorney with knowledge of nursing home and elder law can connect you with the appropriate authorities in South Carolina. An attorney can also evaluate your case for a potential civil suit, so that you can hold the at-fault parties financially responsible.
To connect with a South Carolina nursing home abuse attorney today, please call by phone, click the live chat, or use the contact form link to reach the Law Office of Kenneth E. Berger. We serve clients in the Columbia, Florence, and Myrtle Beach areas, as well as across the entire state of South Carolina. We look forward to hearing from you, and in turn, doing our part to help protect seniors and make our state safer for vulnerable people.