Here you will find information on senior exploitation and elder abuse in the state of Indiana such as statistics, types,
common risk factors, what to look for, and barriers to getting help.
What is Elder Abuse?
To the untrained eye, elder abuse can be difficult to identify, but it affects thousands of Americans each year. The abuse often takes place in the individuals’ homes, in relatives’ homes and in retirement facilities responsible for the care and comfort of the elderly.
Elder abuse generally refers to any intentional exploitation by a caregiver that harms a vulnerable adult. The abuse can take many forms but can be physical, sexual, psychological or exploitative in nature. Neglect — both intentional and unintentional — can also be considered a type of elder abuse.
Physical abuse: any action that inflicts physical pain or injury on an elderly individual.
Sexual abuse: touching, fondling and other sexual activity with an older adult who doesn’t offer consent or is unable to understand the situation.
Emotional and psychological: any threats, harassment, intimidation, humiliation and verbal assaults.
Financial exploitation: the improper use or mismanagement of elderly individuals’ funds or property. This can include forging a signature, stealing cash or other physical assets or coercing a victim to sign a document they don’t understand.
Neglect: willful deprivation of a necessity or the failure to adequately care for an elderly individual. This can take many forms, from failing to regularly change clothing to withholding medicine from an elderly individual.
How to Spot Elder Abuse
Identifying elder abuse is one of the first steps to ending it. As with many other victims of abuse, the elderly are often reluctant to admit — much less report — abuse, especially if a family member or loved one is inflicting the abuse.
Warning signs often depend on the form of abuse.
Physical abuse often leads to obvious signs, including bruises, bone breaks, cuts, and sores.
Sexual abuse can cause bruises and irritation of the genitals, aggressive behavior and sexually transmitted infections.
Emotional and psychological abuse often presents itself through uncharacteristic or withdrawn behavior from the elderly person. Caregivers who regularly isolate or demean elderly individuals can also be inflicting emotional abuse.
Financial exploitation can be spotted through significant and sudden withdrawals from bank accounts or investments, missing cash and valuable items from the senior’s home, and suspicious or swift changes in wills and other legal documents.
Neglect can be one of the more difficult forms of elder abuse to spot. Malnutrition, bed sores and unsafe living conditions, such as a lack of running water or electricity, are a few of the most common signs of abuse.
How to Prevent Elder Abuse
Abusers aren’t typically motivated by malice. Understanding the symptoms of elder abuse is necessary to spotting and reporting it, but it’s necessary to understand the causes to prevent it altogether.
Maintain healthy relationships with elderly individuals in your life. Keeping in touch reduces the likelihood of isolation and depression, which can increase the odds of abuse.
Educate them about elder abuse. Helping seniors understand the risks of elder abuse, from financial scams to physical abuse, can help prevent it from happening in the first place.
Keep them involved in their financial decisions. Though elderly individuals might need assistance from trusted relatives and financial professionals, they should maintain control of their finances until they are unable to do so.
Make sure caretakers aren’t overwhelmed. Burnout and stress are major risk factors for elder abuse. Reduce the chance of neglect by ensuring caregivers aren’t overworked.
How to Report Elder Abuse in Indiana
If you recognize any signs or symptoms of elder abuse, don’t hesitate to report it. Elder abuse often becomes more severe as time progresses. If there’s an immediate threat of harm, dial 911. Here is a list of resources Indiana residents can contact to report elder abuse.
Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network