June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month

Do you know the signs of Elder Abuse?

How can you help?

Photo by Yoshua Giri on Unsplash

June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month.  Coincidentally, THIS June, the United States is also slowly reopening amid a global pandemic that has targeted the elderly population in every direction.  The elderly and immunocompromised are uniquely vulnerable to COVID19.  As a result of this vulnerability, this population has also suffered consequences from isolation from family, friends and community.  The current COVID19 crisis has seen an increase in domestic violence across the United States. Experts believe this will also be the case with Elder Abuse, especially as Elders are increasingly isolated from their support systems. 

Statistics show that in normal times, 1 in 10 Americans age 60+ have experienced abuse.  Elder abuse is “the harming of an older person” and can include “neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse or sexual abuse.”
Do you know the signs of Elder Abuse? Look for:

  • Unexplained financial transactions or loss
  • Unexplained bruises, cuts or injuries
  • Withdrawal from family, community or hobbies
  • Verbal abuse by “support system”
  • Threats to Elder
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Rapid, often unexplained, decline in health
  • Sudden confusion, depression, anxiety or other alarming changes in mental health
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Neglecting care needs like hygiene or appearance
  • Hesitation to speak openly
  • Secretive behaviors
  • Unusual reliance on another(s) for answers to questions or decision making

Pay attention to new people in the Elder’s life, or people who have taken an exceptionally intimate NEW interest in the Elder’s life.

As an attorney who specializes in Elder Law, I’ve seen Elder Abuse in all forms. The cases have typically fallen into one of two common denominators: 1) lack of consistently involved support system; or 2) exploitation by the support system.  It is SO important to check in on your elders, watch for the signs and not be afraid to speak up if you suspect something amiss.

What resources are available to those who suspect Elder Abuse?

  • In an emergency ALWAYS call 9-1-1.
  • Suspected Elder Abuse In the COMMUNITY:  NJ charges the County Offices of Adult Protective Services with following up on all suspected cases of Elder Abuse or neglect.  You can find the information for YOUR County Office here:  https://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/doas/home/adultpsp.html
  • Suspected Elder Abuse in a LONG TERM CARE FACILITY: The Ombudsman’s office is responsible for investigating suspected Elder Abuse in long-term care facilities.  Reports can be made to the following hotlines:
    • In-state line, Call: 1-877-582-6995 for help.
    • Out-of-(NJ) State line, Call: 609-943-4023 for help.
  • Most police departments have resources dedicated to investigating allegations of Elder Abuse and cooperating with the Prosecutor’s Office for anything that rises to criminal behavior.
  • Most financial institutions have Elder Abuse or Fraud units that can review accounts for financial impropriety, freeze financial assets pending evaluation and take other measures to prevent or mitigate financial abuse.
  • Hire an Elder Law attorney to help you navigate the muddied waters.  Elder Law attorneys can help you:
    • advocate for the Elder in connection with Adult Protective Services, Ombudsman, Police Department, Prosecutor’s Office;
    • ensure that the investigation remains on track and all legal options are explored;
    • assess and assist in implementing actions to improve the Elder’s living situation;
    • evaluate and pursue legal remedies for the Elder, like monetary reimbursement, removal of an individual as an agent and appointment of a qualified and trustworthy individual as an attorney-in-fact, healthcare proxy, guardian, conservator, etc.
  • Hire a Care Manager to assist in monitoring the Elder’s well-being.  Care Managers are underused and INVALUABLE tools to families, especially when families are busy and/or far away from the Elder.  Care Managers act as advocates, consultants, friends and extra (TRAINED) set of eyes and ears to help monitor and evaluate all aspects of the Elder’s life. 

What can you do?

-know the signs of Elder Abuse and look for them regularly

-check in on your family, friends and neighbors

-if you see something, SAY SOMETHING.

-educate your loved ones and set up systems NOW to thwart opportunities for abuse

Additional Resources:

NJ Consumer Affairs Anti-Fraud Toolkit: https://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/fightingfraud/Pages/default.aspx

National Center on Elder Abuse: https://ncea.acl.gov/

Aging Life Care Association – NJ Chapter (find a Care Manager): HERE

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