Recognizing and Reporting Elder Abuse
What is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse is a problem that takes many forms. Unfortunately, many seniors are subjected to elder abuse and often times the abuse goes unreported and the abuser goes unpunished. There are many types of Elder abuse:
Physical abuse. This includes hitting, striking, beating, kicking, and using excessive force. This may also include the overuse of restraints or drugs.
Emotional or psychological abuse. This can be anything that causes emotional pain or distress and may include verbal assaults, intimidation, isolation, humiliation, and harassment.
Neglect. Neglect is when a caregiver fails to provide the necessary care for the senior citizen under their care. In contrast, self-neglect is when a senior citizen who is mentally competent refuses to care for their own needs and causes harm to themselves.
Financial exploitation. Financial exploitation is often committed by family members (most common), caregivers, or strangers.
Reporting Suspected Abuse
Adult Protective Services (APS) is often the first to receive reports of or to respond to reports of elder abuse. Their job is to provide for the safety, health, and well-being of elderly and vulnerable adults. The law requires those who work with senior citizens in various capacities to report to APS if they suspect elder abuse. When APS receives reports of abuse or neglect, they have several possible actions or interventions. They are responsible for receiving and investigating reports of elder abuse. They then must evaluate the victim’s risks and assess the victim’s ability to understand their risk and give informed consent. The APS worker can then develop a case plan for the abused elder. Once a case plan has been decided, the case worker can arrange for necessary care, medical attention, and legal consultation. Once this is done Adult Protective Services then monitors the services and evaluates the case.
More serious cases of abuse may be reported directly to police. If a senior is in immediate danger, this may be the best course of action.
Many websites provide information on warning signs of potential physical abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, and financial abuse. If you have a loved one who is a senior citizen, it is important to know the warning signs for abuse. It is also key to stay involved with the caregivers and to make regular visits to check on the care of your senior loved one. The National Adult Protective Services Association, http://www.napsa-now.org/get-informed/ , has important information on different types of abuse, as well as ways to get help in any state. In New Jersey, each county has a local APS. You can find that contact information here: https://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/doas/home/adultpsp.html. You can also contact the New Jersey Department of Human Services: Division of Aging Services at 609-588-6501.
If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us.