Recent data show that elder abuse is on the rise in Washington State. In fact, reported cases of elder abuse grew by more than 200% between 2008 and 2016. And, it’s estimated that for every one reported case, 24 go unreported.
Elder abuse is taking a bigger spotlight as the senior population continues to surge.
There are many factors that make elder abuse difficult to report – or spot in the first place.
For instance, consider that in 71% of cases of elder financial abuse, children are to blame. Patients dealing with dementia may not be able to alert others to physical or psychological abuse. Dependent on their caretakers, some elderly people fear what will happen if they speak up. Nursing home residents may not have any close family to check in on them, or advocate if a problem arises.
To sum it up, the elderly is a vulnerable population that makes them easy target for all kinds of abuse.
Elder abuse can take many forms – including financial, physical, sexual, and psychological. Sometimes, the abuse is direct and obvious, such as verbal attacks or pushing. Other times, the abuse is in the form of neglect, where the person’s basic needs aren’t being met.
Here are some symptoms of elder abuse to watch for:
You can also help advocate for your elderly loved ones by staying involved in their lives. Visit them often and at different times of the day. Get to know their caretakers and nursing staff. Take note of any sudden changes in their physical or mental well-being. Research shows that abuse is less likely to happen when the elderly person has a support system.
The good news is that Washington is making elder abuse a priority health issue.
Currently, there is proposed legislation to raise the statute of limitations from three to six years. This means that more cases could be investigated and prosecuted. As signs of elder abuse can be trickier to spot, it also gives families more time to respond.
In September of this year, Pierce County received one of 9 nationwide grants to fight elder abuse. The Department of Justice awarded the county $370,985 to address this pressing issue. The money means more resources to help the elderly through local law enforcement, victims organizations, and a newly-formed community response team. Since receiving the grant, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist has seen an uptick in cases being prosecuted.
It’s important to speak up if you suspect elder abuse is happening. Remember, the elderly person may not be in a position to speak up for themselves.
To make a report, you can call Adult Protective Services at 800.363.4276 (END-HARM). Another option is to call your local non-emergency police line. (Here in Pierce County, that number is 253.798.4721.) Of course, if abuse is in-progress, call 911.
Depending on the situation, you may also have grounds to bring a civil lawsuit. For instance, you might be able to pursue a nursing home negligence or wrongful death lawsuit. Our attorneys at Ladenburg Law can speak with you at no cost to help determine if legal action can be taken in your situation.
For more information on identifying elder abuse and how to report it, please visit the State of Washington Adult Protective Services website.