Growing older shouldn’t mean that things get harder. The reality, though, is that growing older can be difficult. Prejudices like ageism can make growing older difficult. Something that can make growing older even harder is elder abuse. According to the National Council on Aging, “one in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse.” What this means is that elder abuse is more common than many people may think. It may also be happening to someone you know. To understand elder abuse better, here are two things that you should know.
1. Elder abuse can involve different types of abuse.
Generally elder abuse is when an older adult is harmed physically, financially, emotionally, psychologically, financially or emotionally by someone else. There are different types of elder abuse. Elder abuse includes but is not limited to:
- Financial abuse: This is when an older adult is taken advantage of financially. For example, manipulating the victim to sign away their property, having the victim write specific things in their will or estate plan without their consent, and forging signatures.
- Physical abuse: This includes any form of physical harms such as hitting, pushing, and choking. Physical abuse can also include even lightly hitting the victim.
- Sexual abuse: Sexually abusing older adults is more common than many think.
- Psychological abuse: This can include manipulation, gaslighting, indirect force, insisting on things even with the victim’s lack of consent. This can also include controlling access to the victim and who the victim talks to.
- Neglect: Neglect tends to be not what you do, but what you don’t do. For example, leaving the victim all by themselves while being aware of their inability to take care of themselves. This can also include limiting their ability to take care of themselves like basic hygiene.
2. Elder abuse is complex.
Abuse does not require overt force. Elder abuse can occur when an older adult does not consent to what another party suggests, but is manipulated into doing so. Manipulation can include subtle, indirect or more direct methods. Manipulation can include behaviors such as:
- The perpetrator making promises to the victim to induce an action, with no intention of fulfilling those promises. The perpetrator may, for example, promise to take care of the victim in exchange for financial gain. The perpetrator may then fail to fulfill the promise by neglecting the victim or by physically abusing the victim.
- The perpetrator uses the victim’s age against them. For example, if the victim suffers from dementia, the perpetrator will use their lack of memory to hide things like sexual abuse or emotional abuse.
Elder abuse can take many forms, but these are just some examples. The key takeaway is that elder abuse is complex and is not as black and white as one might think.
Let Stevenson Smith Hood Knudson Help You
It is important to watch for signs of elder abuse for your loved ones–and even for yourself. If you do suspect elder abuse, you may have a duty to report to a state agency.
A clear, valid power of attorney and other legal arrangements can help to prevent and protect against abuse and manipulation. Contact us at Stevenson Smith Hood Knudson to discuss how we can create an estate plan that will protect you and your loved ones when you are vulnerable.