Ten Ways to Prevent Elder Abuse


Americans are living longer than ever before, and with longer life comes the problems associated with aging. Frailty, Alzheimer's, dementia, and vision or hearing impairment are just a few things that come on with old age, necessitating extra help from family and friends, in-home caregivers, or assisted living.

Being able to no longer live independently puts a person at a higher risk for abuse and exploitation. And family members too often have blinders on when it comes to caring for their elderly loved ones because they are too emotionally involved. More often than not, they don't recognize abuse when they see it. However, as a caregiver, you need to be alert to the signs and types of elder abuse so that it can be prevented.

Preventing elder abuse requires a team effort. If all of the adult caregivers of an elderly person chip in, they can help ensure that the senior can live out the rest of their days with dignity. Here is a list of things to do to prevent abuse and exploitation of your elderly loved ones.

1. Make sure that all of the basic legal documents are in place before you need them. Those documents include:

a. General Power of Attorney to name a person of your choosing to make financial decisions when you are no longer able to.

b. Health Care Power of Attorney to name someone else to make medical and health care decisions when you are unable to speak for yourself.

c. Living Will to express your end of life preferences. For example, if you are in a irreversible coma and you have a heart attack, do you want your care providers to ?resuscitate you by performing CPR?

d. HIPAA Authorization. This authorizes the persons you choose to be able to speak to the doctors and nurses who are treating you when you are unable to speak for yourself.

e. Mental Health Power of Attorney. If you have a psychological or psychiatric condition (like depression), this authorizes someone you trust to help make decisions on your behalf if it is determined that you are not making safe decisions for yourself (in other words, if you are engaging in self-neglect).

2. Make sure the older person is taking care of his or her health. An adult becomes vulnerable most often because of health issues. If the senior is healthy and able to drive to the grocery store and bank, then he or she is much less susceptible to pressures from dishonest predators.

3. If your older family member has drug, alcohol, and depression issues, urge them to seek professional help. These conditions can all lead to elder abuse.

4. Be resourceful. If you are the sole caretaker, get support from friends, relatives or local respite care agencies so you can take breaks, even if only for a couple of hours. Also, if you are aware of a sole caretaker caring for the elderly person, encourage them to seek respite. Find an adult day care program. Learn about community-based domestic violence services.

5. Help the senior stay active in the community and connected with friends and family. Invite them to family, community, or church activities. Introduce them to Community Centers that serve the elderly. This will decrease social isolation, which has been connected to elder abuse.

6. Be alert. Listen to your senior loved one and their caregivers. Don't just think that mom is complaining to complain. Take what she says seriously. One person I know said her caregivers refused to take her to the bathroom, so she would go herself, risking a serious trip and fall incident each time she went alone. After a period of time she contracted a serious infection as a result of not being allowed to properly relieve her. She spent a week in ICU and almost died.

7. Look at the senior's medications and check that the amount in the bottle matches the date of the prescription. You want to check to see if your loved one is being over administered properly or if medications are being stolen.

8. Review Bank and Credit Card Statements often. Appoint more than one family member or caregiver to be responsible for the elderly person's finances. Make sure beneficiary designations are as the person intended. Too often I have seen a family member lose their intended inheritance because another family member has gotten their mother or father to change the beneficiary or trust documents.

9. Stay in touch. Call and visit as often as you can. If the older person can rely on you, they will be less apt to rely on an untrustworthy neighbor or caretaker. Many churches have volunteer visitors who can visit your loved one on a regular basis. One of these visitors actually discovered a resident being abused and was able to get help for the elderly person and get the care facility closed down.

10. Intervene when you suspect elder abuse. If you believe a vulnerable adult is being exploited or abused, contact the family and Arizona Adult Protective Services at 1-877-767-2385. If you still have questions, contact a law firm that is experienced in Elder Law.

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Brian Starr is the founder of the Phoenix law firm of Starr Law Firm, PLC You may contact Brian at 866-920-0549 or email.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is made available for general informational purposes only, and is not intended to constitute specific legal advice or to be a substitute for advice from qualified counsel. For that reason, you should not act or refrain from acting based on any information in this article without first obtaining advice from professional counsel qualified in the applicable subject matter and jurisdictions.