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Spotting the signs of elder abuse

The idea that someone might mistreat an aging parent or loved one is troubling. Unfortunately, elder abuse is not necessarily uncommon in Louisiana. But it is often harder to spot than one may realize. Here are common signs of physical, psychological and financial abuse among the elderly.

Physical abuse can involve physically striking, inappropriately restraining or shaking a victim, but may also involve inappropriately distributing medications or force feeding. Bruising, lacerations, sprains and dislocations are all common signs of physical abuse. Other signs to watch out for include weight loss, depression, unexplained agitation and more. A victim might also hesitate to talk candidly with loved ones or provide conflicting accounts of his or her injuries.

While physical abuse certainly affects victims emotionally as well as physically, psychological abuse happens through verbal and nonverbal acts that do not involve physical touching. Abusers intentionally inflict emotional pain, anguish and distress on their victims. Signs of this abuse include depression, sleeping problems, weight loss, high blood pressure and unusual behaviors. A loved one who has suddenly started biting, scratching or rocking themselves could be a victim of psychological abuse.

Financial abuse is the improper or illegal use of an elder’s assets. A victim might be pressured into altering his or her estate plan or adding an abuser to a financial account. A financial abuser will often portray him or herself as a friend or someone who is trying to help look out for the victim’s financial well-being. A distant friend or relative who suddenly becomes more involved in an elderly person’s life might be a potential abuser, as can a new “best friend” suddenly showing up in his or her life. Suspicious account signatures, unexplained legal documents, unexplained account withdrawals and even unpaid bills may all point to financial abuse.

No matter how strong an elderly loved one may seem, the reality is that he or she could be at risk for elder abuse. Sadly, many victims in Louisiana are afraid, embarrassed or ashamed to come forward. Regardless of whether a loved one discovered the abuse or the victim found the courage to speak up, securing justice for a victim of elder abuse is often a priority for family members.

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