Is Your Loved One Suffering Elder Abuse? Know the Signs.

A senior woman walking down a corridor with the assistance of a walker.

Maryland laws protect vulnerable elders from abuse, exploitation, and neglect. Recognizing the signs of elder abuse and knowing what you can do to help a victim of elder abuse is critical for everyone with aging loved ones.

At The Law Office of Henry Nash in Rockville, Maryland, we help you take the right steps to protect yourself and your elder loved ones from abuse and financial exploitation. We assist individuals and families with the full range of issues and concerns that can arise as you or your loved ones grow older.

Elder Abuse, Exploitation, and Neglect in Maryland

Civil and criminal statutes in Maryland address elder abuse, financial exploitation and neglect. The laws define these types of conduct differently:

  • Elder abuse generally refers to physical injury caused by cruel or inhumane treatment or a malicious act, including non-consensual sexual acts or inappropriate medications or use of restraints. It can also include emotional or psychological abuse, such as intimidation or humiliation.
  • Elder exploitation involves improper financial gain through misuse of money, property, or the individual.
  • Elder neglect results from intentional deprivation of adequate food, clothing, shelter, supervision, or medical treatment.

Detailed information about elder exploitation is available in our previous article Understanding and Preventing Financial Exploitation of Elders. Physical abuse and neglect are equally important to prevent, recognize, and remedy.

Where Does Elder Abuse Occur?

Abuse of an elder can occur anywhere the elder lives, even in their own home. It occurs in care facilities and in private residences. The abuser can be a paid caregiver, employee of an institution, or anyone else who regularly has contact with the elder, including a family member or another resident of a facility.

Regardless of where an elder lives and who the caregiver is, the potential for abuse exists. That makes it extremely important to stay keenly aware of the signs of potential abuse and to take steps to protect against or stop abuse in every situation when an elder may be at risk.

Signs of Elder Abuse

Sometimes, the signs of elder abuse are not outwardly obvious. The indications can be very subtle. Other times, the physical signs of abuse are readily apparent. It is not possible to list every possible sign of abuse, but some common indicators include:

  • Sudden or inexplicable changes in the elder’s mood, such as lack of communication or withdrawal
  • A caregiver’s refusal to allow you to be alone with the elder
  • Caregiver behavior that belittles or mimics the elder or dismisses the elder’s requests or concerns
  • General issues with the quality of a facility and staff, including inadequacy of services and insufficient staff
  • Unexplained physical injuries, including bruising, broken bones, or sprains
  • Indications of physical restraint on wrists, ankles, or elsewhere
  • Torn, dirty, or stained clothing, underwear, or bed linens
  • Untreated physical or medical issues, including vaginal or anal bleeding or infections, which can be signs of sexual abuse
  • Unusual weight loss, dehydration, or malnutrition

If you see any signs of abuse when you visit with your loved one, acting promptly is extremely important. The longer the abuse goes on, the more likely it is to get worse and significantly endanger your loved one.

What To Do If You Suspect Elder Abuse

You should report suspected cases of elder abuse and neglect right away. In Montgomery County, Maryland, Adult Protective Services (240-777-3000) focuses on helping vulnerable elders who need assistance.  If an elder is in immediate danger, you should call the Police Department Elder/Vulnerable Adult Abuse Section (240-773-5050) or 911.

In addition, you should talk with an elder law attorney. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to take legal steps to protect your elder loved one longer term, including petitioning for guardianship of the person and finances of the elder.

Protecting Yourself From Elder Abuse, Exploitation and Neglect

As you age, you become more vulnerable to all types of harm that others can cause. You can protect yourself from that risk by putting an estate plan in place that includes documents to ensure you stay safe, regardless of what circumstances arise in your life.

A sound estate plan includes a lot more than just determining disposition of your property and assets on your death. Some documents protect you during your life. Your durable financial power of attorney protects your finances. An advanced health care directive ensures that your loved ones know and can implement your wishes regarding medical care and treatment. In some situations, your estate plan should include a living trust to safeguard your finances and assets and protect against potential financial exploitation as you age.

Talking with a knowledgeable elder law and estate planning attorney is the best way to make sure you have all the right documents in place to prevent abuse, exploitation, and neglect as you age. It is extremely risky to use DIY (Do-It-Yourself) services or sign documents given to you by a family member or caregiver.  You could end up jeopardizing yourself and your financial assets, as well as undermining your most important goals.

Talk With a Respected Rockville, Maryland Elder Law and Estate Planning Lawyer

Attorney Henry Nash has extensive experience helping elder clients and their families protect themselves and their assets from abuse and exploitation. At The Law Office of Henry Nash, our services include elder law matters and estate planning specific to the elder’s individual needs. We address all the complex and critical legal issues facing seniors. 

We work with clients in Rockville, throughout Montgomery County, and elsewhere in Maryland. We also assist out-of-state clients who have loved ones residing in the state.  If you have any questions or concerns about any issues relating to elder law, we welcome you to call us at (301) 998-6111 or contact us through our online form.

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