When Florida seniors age, they may reach a time when they can no longer safely
take care of themselves. It is at this point that oftentimes caregivers are entrusted in
keeping your senior loved ones safe and healthy. Caregivers spend hours with their
seniors and must be fully trustworthy, competent and compassionate.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Elder abuse is far more common than
most people realize. There are over half a million cases being reported each year
but research tells us that millions more are unreported to authorities. Further, most
elder abuse originates with someone the senior knows well. This can include the
caregiver and family members.
Elder abuse can include physical, emotional, or sexual harm. It may also manifest as
financial exploitation or neglect of the senior’s welfare by anyone who is directly
responsible for his or her care. Elder abuse can occur anywhere. In fact, elder abuse
can occur in the senior’s own home, relatives’ homes and in long-term care facilities.
As of last year, studies report that one in ten seniors will be abused in their lifetime.
It is not always easy to realize elder abuse is occurring, especially when caregivers
and family members seem trustworthy. Let us share a few example we give our
clients that you can use to monitor and support the seniors in your life.
1. Broken eyeglasses or suspicious bruising.
Any unexplained signs of injury could suggest physical abuse. Make sure to keep a
watchful eye for bruises, welts or scars, especially if they appear symmetrical on
two sides of the body. Naturally, accidents happen. When injuries occur frequently
and are unexplainable, however, this may be a red flag. Ask questions of your senior
loved one and get answers. Physical abuse of any kind cannot be tolerated.
2. Mimicking dementia symptoms without a diagnosis.
When a caregiver emotionally abuses a vulnerable elder, he or she may cope by
displaying signs of dementia. This happens even when the senior does not have the
illness. This behavior is typically exhibited as rocking, sucking on a thumb or
mumbling. If you see this behavior, do not wait to investigate. Start by speaking to
both the senior and the caregiver. When speaking to the latter, watch for
threatening, belittling or controlling behavior. Do not neglect speaking to the
primary care doctor or specialist as well.
3. Unusual weight loss, malnutrition or dehydration.
These are classic signs of neglect. If you notice any of these signs do not wait to
speak with the caregiver about what he or she is feeding your loved one and how
often he or she is drinking water. There are occasions and physical conditions that
occur as we age that could result in a senior being physically unable to drink or eat.
Caregivers should recognize these signs, speak to the senior’s doctor and adjust
accordingly. This may include switching to a liquid diet, changing dietary habits or
using an IV at various times throughout the day.
4. Suspicious changes in finances.
Financial exploitation is a type of elder abuse that is occuring more often today.
Work with your loved one to monitor accounts for significant withdrawals, sudden
changes in his or her financial condition, and financial activity that would be
impossible for the senior to have completed personally. Unfortunately, caregivers
can take advantage of seniors and exploit their finances. Plan ahead to create a
system of checks and balances to ensure suspicious activity is caught sooner than
While caregivers should be trustworthy and your elderly loved one should be safe,
that is not always the case. We know how difficult this conversation can be to have
with your loved one but do not wait to have it. Planning together to prevent threats
like these make your senior less vulnerable. If you have questions on this issue or
any elder law planning issue, do not wait to contact our law office.