What is elder/disabled adult abuse?
Elder abuse or abuse of a disabled adult is usually defined as the physical or psychological mistreatment of a senior or disabled adult, and can include taking financial advantage of, or neglecting the care of a senior (age 65 or older) or disabled adult (anyone 18 or older with a physical or mental disability). A National Elder Abuse Incidence Study suggested that more than 500,000 Americans aged 60 and over were victims of domestic abuse in 1996. This study also found that only 16 percent of the abusive situations are referred for help - 84 percent remain hidden. While a couple of studies estimate that between 3 percent and 5 percent of the elderly population have been abused, the Senate Special Committee on Aging estimates that there may be as many as 5 million victims every year. Victims of elder abuse are often embarrassed to reveal that relatives or caregivers are abusing them. Victims also fear retaliation from the abuse or being placed in an institution. Sometimes the abuse is accompanied by threats from the perpetrators so the victim is fearful of reporting the crime.
Types of Elder Abuse:
Physical/Sexual Abuse: This can include hitting, punching, kicking, slapping and pushing. Physical abuse may or may not leave visible marks on the victim’s body. Sexual abuse involves non-consensual contact of any kind.
Emotional/Psychological Abuse: A person may treat the elder like a child or call them names. An elder or disabled adult may seem unusually depressed or may talk bad about himself.
Financial Abuse: This includes stealing money, lying about how much care an elder needs, or cashing the elder’s or disabled adult’s checks without permission.
Neglect/Abandonment: Failing to feed, bathe, or properly medicate an elder or disabled adult can constitute neglect. In sum, this is failure to provide care to an elder or disabled adult.
Indications of Elder/Disabled Adult abuse include:
- Frequent unexplained injuries (bruises, broken limbs, welts, cuts and grip marks.)
- Fear and edginess in the presence of the caregiver or family member.
- Exclusion of an elder from discussions about major issues/decisions.
- Social isolation, either physically or emotionally imposed.
- Withholding of the elder’s mail.
- Verbal assault.
- Absence of emotional warmth toward the elder.
- Standard of living not appropriate for elder’s income level.
- Sudden sale of property belonging to elder.
- Sudden revision of elder’s will, naming a new beneficiary.
- Decline in elder’s personal hygiene.
Solicitor-General Sherry Boston oversees the Office’s participation in VALARI (Vulnerable Adults Living At-Risk Invisibly), which is a multi-disciplinary team of law enforcement officers, medical professionals, and representatives from social service agencies who work together to provide comprehensive assessment of cases involving neglect, abuse, and exploitation of elders and disabled adults. The team also works to increase public awareness regarding the safety of vulnerable adults. The VALARI Safety Action Plan (VSAP) assists victims of vulnerable adult abuse, neglect and exploitation on nights, weekends and holidays. Volunteers coordinate a community response to assist vulnerable adults in locating temporary placement or provide other needs when the caregiver is arrested or becomes ill and is transported to a medical facility.
Where to Go for Help:
National Center on Elder Abuse:
National resource center dedicated to the prevention of elder mistreatment.
1(800) 677 1116; www.ncea.aoa.gov
Georgia Dept. of Human Services, Adult Protective Services:
1 (888) 774-0172 or (404) 657-5250 within the metro area; www.dhs.georgia.gov
Georgia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program:
Seeks to improve the quality of life for residents of long-term care facilities, personal care homes, and community living arrangements.
(888) 454-5826; http://georgiaombudsman.org
DeKalb County Family and Children Services:
County agency committed to protecting vulnerable children and adults.
(404) 370-5000; www.co.dekalb.ga.us/dfcs
Atlanta Legal Aid Society:
Referrals and free civil representation to victims of elder abuse.
(404) 657-5258; www. atlantalegalaid.org
Download our brochure on Elder/Disabled Abuse.