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Stop and Prevent Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of Older and Disabled Persons

Older people and adults with disabilities are especially vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

It is incredibly important to know the signs and stop the behavior as soon as possible. If you suspect an instance of abuse, neglect, or exploitation, report it to local law enforcement or Georgia’s Adult Protective Services. If it is an emergency, call 911.

This handout provides quick information and resources about identifying, preventing, and stopping elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

Types of Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation

There are many different possible types of abuse, including (but not limited to) physical, emotional, sexual, abandonment, self-neglect, financial exploitation, and healthcare fraud and abuse. Neglect, whether intentional or unintentional, is a serious charge.

Abuse and neglect happen all across the country – from urban to rural settings. It is important to remember that abuse is NOT the fault of the victim – no one should experience abuse, neglect, or exploitation.

To learn more about the various types of abuse and neglect, visit HelpGuide or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

To find local resources outside of Georgia, please visit Eldercare Locator. You can contact the Eldercare Hotline by calling 1-800-677-1116.

How to recognize potential abuse

The following red flags may point to a problem:

Emotional Red Flags:

  • Unusual changes in behavior or sleep
  • Fear or anxiety
  • Isolated or not responsive
  • Depression

Physical Red Flags:

  • Broken bones, bruises, welts, cuts, sores, or burns
  • Untreated bed sores
  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing
  • Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases
  • Dirtiness, poor nutrition, or dehydration
  • Poor living conditions
  • Lack of medical aids (glasses, walker, teeth, hearing aid, medications, etc.)

Financial Red Flags:

  • Unusual activity in bank accounts
  • Unusual changes in a bank account or money management
  • Rare or sudden changes in a will or other financial documents
  • Suspicious signatures on checks, or outright forgery on financial documents
  • Sudden non-sufficient fund activity or unpaid bills
  • Bank statements that no longer go to the customer’s home
  • A caretaker, relative, or friend who suddenly begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of an older person without proper documentation
  • Unusual activity in an older person’s bank accounts, including large, frequent, or unexplained withdrawals

Protection from Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation

It is important to be aware of the many different types of abuse, neglect, and exploitation, the warning signs, and ways to prevent and protect victims of abuse.

Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation is a form of abuse that targets older people at a time in their lives when they most need financial security. Many cases of financial exploitation are never reported to law enforcement.

You can learn more from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) about protecting yourself and loved ones from fraud and financial exploitation. The AARP frequently updates a list of current frauds and scams. You can also read a report about issues and trends with Suspicious Activity Reports from CFPB.

Sexual Abuse

Although it is not often talked about or reported, there have been many instances of sexual abuse among elderly populations. Sexual abuse is any action towards a person that is unwanted and sexual in origin, and it can be more than physical acts. You can learn more and about the signs of sexual abuse from the Nursing Home Abuse Center.

Neglect

The National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) calls neglect, “a form of mistreatment by individuals resulting from inadequate attention, especially through carelessness or disregard for the needs of others.” Neglect can take many forms, including physical neglect, emotional neglect, abandonment, financial neglect, and even self-neglect. NAPSA’s “When to Report Checklist” can be helpful in determining whether you are witnessing or experiencing neglect.

Abuse and People Living with Dementia

The Alzheimer’s Association has many comprehensive resources with special considerations for people who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia.

Abuse and Adults with Disabilities

Disability Justice is one organization that seeks to prevent adults with developmental disabilities from suffering abuse and exploitation.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline has helpful resources to learn about adults with disabilities who are experiencing these traumas.

Join the fight against elder abuse and neglect

The Department of Justice has a campaign called the “Elder Justice Initiative” (EJI). Their mission is to “combat elder abuse and financial exploitation, encourage reporting abuse, and educate the public to make America safer for all.”

Educate yourself through the resources listed above and talk about the reality of elder abuse and neglect with your friends and family, with your elected officials, and in public forums.

Don’t wait to seek help

If you suspect that you or someone you know is being abused or neglected, it is very important to seek professional help. Please contact empowerline to discuss the signs that you see.

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