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How do I look out for elder abuse?

Elder abuse is a dangerous and highly misunderstood crime. This is often because care -- and mistreatment -- often occur away from public view. Elderly people and their caregivers should be aware of the likely environments for abuse or neglect.

What are the risk factors for elder abuse?

The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) estimates between 2 million and 5 million Americans suffer elder abuse of some kind each year. Female victims are more common, and people with any mental illness or difficulties are especially susceptible.

Where does elder abuse happen?

Nursing homes are often the location of elder abuse or neglect, while staff and visitors may be accountable for their actions during outings or elsewhere off the premises.

However, the home -- either a house or an assisted living facility -- is one of the most likely scenes of elder abuse, and occurrences are often hidden by family members and friends. In-home health care aides may also be responsible for abuse or neglect.

How likely is prosecution of elder abuse?

Family members and nursing home staff members have been reported and prosecuted for abuse-related crimes, such as assault, video voyeurism or negligence.

However, it is estimated that most abusers are not prosecuted because the victims are afraid or unable to report the crime or any suspicion of one. Caretakers and family members must be on the lookout for signs of elder abuse

Does stress cause elder abuse?

Taking care of an elderly patient, resident or family member is always a taxing job. But the majority of stressed caregivers do not engage in abusive behavior.

Average and exceptional caregivers handle their responsibilities every day without causing harm to others. Stress is not a factor that excuses any mistreatment or neglect of an elderly person in need of care.

It is important to report any suspicions of elder abuse to nursing home management or law enforcement. If you or someone you know has been the victim of elder abuse of neglect, consider your legal options with an experienced attorney.

Source: Aging Life Care Association, "The 7 Biggest Myths about Elder Abuse," accessed July 13, 2017

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