According to the NCOA, seniors are more likely to self-report financial exploitation than emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect. Psychological abuse is the most common type of elder abuse, according to the NCEA. Every year, more than 5 million Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. The Administration on Aging estimates that only 1 in 14 of these cases is reported.
As our population ages and more people need a nursing home or care facility, it's more important than ever to know the warning signs of elder abuse. Financial abuse is becoming a widespread and difficult to detect problem. Even someone you don't know can steal your financial information over the phone, Internet, or email. Use caution when sharing any financial information over the phone or online if you don't know who will use it.
Financial neglect occurs when an older adult's financial responsibilities, such as paying rent or mortgage, medical expenses or insurance, utility bills, or property taxes, are ignored, and the person's bills are not paid. Doctors, hospital staff, or other healthcare workers can commit health care fraud. It includes overcharging, billing twice for the same service, falsifying Medicaid or Medicare claims, or charging for care that was not provided. Older adults and caregivers should be on the lookout for this type of fraud.
Frequent arguments or tensions between the caregiver and the elderly person or changes in the elder's personality or behavior can be broad signs of elder abuse. Signs of elder abuse can be difficult to recognize or confuse with symptoms of dementia, or the frailty of the elderly person or caregivers can explain them that way. Such contact may involve physical sexual acts, but activities such as showing an older person pornographic material, forcing the person to watch sexual acts, or forcing the person to undress are also considered sexual abuse of older persons. The reporting agencies in each state are different, but each state has a designated service to receive and investigate complaints of elder abuse and neglect.
Elder abuse includes physical, emotional, or sexual harm inflicted on an older adult, financial exploitation, or neglect of their well-being by people who are directly responsible for their care. Elder abuse can also take the form of intentional or unintentional neglect of an older adult by the caregiver. The first and most important step in preventing elder abuse is to recognize that no one of any age should be subjected to violent, abusive, humiliating, or neglectful behavior. The Administration for Community Living has a National Center on Elder Abuse, where you can learn how to report abuse, where to get help, and state laws that address abuse and neglect.
Adult Protective Services (APS), present in all 50 states, is designated to receive and investigate complaints of elder abuse and neglect. Federal law requires every state attorney general's office to have an MFCU that investigates and prosecutes Medicaid provider fraud and patient abuse and neglect in health care programs and home health services that participate in Medicaid.