Elder abuse is more common than you might think, unless you have a loved one going through it. Then, it seems as though you hear about many cases of elder abuse. Virginia’s Adult Protective Services takes complaints about elder abuse. In 2017, Adult Protective Services confirmed reports of 2,293 cases of neglect. Additionally, the agency received reports of 1,394 cases of financial exploitation, 744 cases of physical abuse, 711 cases of mental abuse, and 63 cases of sexual abuse.
Out of these cases, 62 percent happened in the elderly person’s own home. Nursing homes, another person’s home, and other locations each tied at 10 percent of the cases reported. Assisted living facilities saw 5 percent of abuse cases while behavioral health and developmental service facilities and/or group homes saw 3 percent of the reported abuse cases.
Exploitation and abuse taking place in a family home are always hard to believe. Open your mind and look for the signs, even if you don’t think your relative—it may be a brother or sister or even a favorite aunt—would abuse your loved one. If you suspect that someone is abusing a loved one, contact an elder abuse lawyer as soon as possible.
What to Do if You Suspect Elder Abuse
If you suspect someone is abusing your loved one living in a nursing home or assisted living facility, don’t confront anyone unless you are already prepared to move your loved one. Confronting the staff could put your loved one in more danger.
If you suspect a friend or relative is abusing a loved one at home, you might try to convince your loved one to move to another relative’s house or an assisted living facility. Tensions can run high if a family member is involved, but for the sake of your loved one, you should intervene as soon as possible.
At the same time, report the abuse to Virginia’s Adult Protective Services and contact an elder abuse lawyer as soon as possible.
Speak With Your Loved One About Abuse
Your loved one may not want to discuss the abuse because they might feel afraid of retaliation or might think that others will not believe them. If you feel the need to discuss your suspicions with the victim to determine whether they are founded, it is best to remove the victim from the situation. Taking your loved one to a place where they can be sure no one will hear the conversation will allow them to speak more freely.
Be sure to ask about only one thing at a time. For example, you might ask about a specific bruise on your loved one’s arm and then, in a different question, ask about another sign of physical abuse.
Even if the person has memory problems, listen carefully. That person may remember the incident if it was emotionally jarring. Put yourself at eye level with your loved one, so that they feel more comfortable talking to you. Last of all, be patient with your loved one. Give them the time and space they need to tell their stories.
Virginia’s Elderly Abuse Reporting Policies
Virginia statutes provide regulations for reporting elder abuse in nursing homes, assisted living homes, and medical facilities. Anyone who is licensed, registered, or certified by a health regulatory board or anyone who is an emergency medical services or mental health services provider is required by law to report elder abuse in any of its forms. Doctors are protected from penalties for breaching doctor-patient confidentiality regulations so they may report elder abuse.
In a personal setting, anyone who is a caretaker, conservator, or guardian is also required to report elder abuse to Adult Protective Services. Law enforcement officers are also required to report suspected elder abuse.
When Should I Report Elder Abuse?
According to Rainn.org, if you suspect someone is abusing an elderly person, including if that person is neglecting himself or herself, you should report your suspicions to the local department of social services where the person being abused lives. If the person is visiting another location and you suspect abuse, report that abuse in the county you suspect the abuse is taking place. Contact Adult Protective Services at (888) 832-3858. Always report elder abuse as soon as you suspect it is happening. You do not have to have irrefutable proof. Adult Protective Services take elder abuse seriously and will check out your suspicions, especially if you feel uncomfortable confronting a caregiver who is a relative or friend.
What Should I Include in My Report?
When you make a report, you may do it verbally or in writing. Because you should also contact an attorney regarding elder abuse, it is better to submit the report in writing as the attorney may use the report and evidence in your lawsuit against the person or facility that is abusing your loved one.
Your report should include any information you have that leads you to suspect abuse, exploitation, or neglect, including self-neglect. Pictures are an immense help if your loved one will allow you to take photos. If you have access to your loved one’s medical records, submit any that may point to abuse.
Where Do I Report Elder Abuse?
If you notice elder abuse, you can visit the National Adult Protective Services Association, The Eldercare Locator, or the Elder Justice Initiative. Locate links for more information on Retirement Living’s website.
Contact Emroch & Kilduff
If you suspect someone is abusing your loved one, contact Adult Protective Services and an elder abuse lawyer as soon as possible. If you have suspicions but are hesitant to notify nursing home staff, the caregivers at an assisted living facility, or a private caregiver who is a relative or friend, calling a nursing home abuse attorney and Adult Protective Services will give you a chance to discuss your suspicions and your next steps.