Spotting the signs of elder abuse
Bardia Anvar, M.D.
One of the most disturbing aspects of working closely with patients of nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities is the growing problem of elder abuse. The American Psychological Association reports as many as two million cases annually but suspects that many incidents are never reported. With the aging baby boomer population continuing to grow year by year, we can expect an increase in such cases.
Long-term care providers generally know to look for obvious signs of signs of elder abuse, such as when there is physical harm (e.g., welts, bruising, broken bones, sprains, etc), or sexual abuse (bruising around the breasts or genitals, unexplained venereal disease or genital infections and vaginal or anal bleeding).
- Emotional Abuse – Patients being threatened, belittled or intimidated often resort to such behavior as rocking, mumbling to themselves or making sucking sounds.
- Financial Exploitation – Cash and missing items from the room, significant withdrawals made from their accounts, suspicious changes in wills or powers of attorney, unpaid bills and frequent ATM activity could signal abuse.
- Rackets and Schemes – The elderly are particularly vulnerable to rip-offs by telemarketers, sweepstakes prize schemes and phony charitable scams that aim to rob them of their money.
- Healthcare Fraud and Abuse -- Examples include charging for services never rendered, double-billing for services, getting kickbacks for prescribing certain medications, overmedicating or undermedicating.
- Neglect – Unsanitary living conditions (dirt, bugs, soiled bedding, dirty clothes), weight loss, dehydration, not being bathed, unsafe living conditions and being deserted at public places are among the signs.