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Steps to take when you suspect elder abuse

While it may be distressing to consider and upsetting to discover, elder abuse in retirement homes can be overlooked due to a loved one's deteriorating mental condition or inability to communicate as a result of a stroke. Whether the abuse or neglect is physical, emotional or financial, such exploitation does occur.

If you believe that your loved one is suffering from abuse or neglect, there are steps you should take to stop the abuse, document the incident and resolve the incident.

1. Stop the abuse

If you believe your loved one is in immediate danger, call 911 for help. To provide an official statement of the abuse, notify the Adult Protective Services (APS) agency, which is located in the residence home's state. Additionally, the Eldercare Locator helpline can connect concerned parties to the appropriate law enforcement or local authorities.

2. Document the incident

In order to substantiate your claims that your loved one has been abused, you will need to provide proof. Detail your loved one's physical state. Review medical records from recent doctor's visits. Examine your loved one's financial records. These and other signs may indicate elder abuse. While it may not be possible to physically document the abuse, any evidence that can be located can bolster your claims.

3. Connect with the appropriate authorities

When you reach out to the appropriate authorities, you will need to provide the contact information for the abused elder. You may be asked questions in order to help the agency learn as much as possible about the incident. This is why it is helpful to have documentation on hand as you call. A written script will help you to answer any questions clearly and concisely.

4. Ensure those authorized investigate the incident

After a claim of abuse is filed, the Adult Protective Services agency reviews the information. It is agency policy to maintain confidentiality in its evaluation of the case. If the claim is substantiated, a caseworker is assigned to investigate. For exigent circumstances, such investigations take place within 24 hours of the initial contact. The APS can intervene on behalf of the nursing home resident in offering legal aid, protective services and other forms of social support.

Unfortunately, it may be the case that the elder refuses services of the APS. It is her right to do so.

5. Remain vigilant

In the long term, it's important to limit the opportunity for abuse by visiting your loved one regularly with scheduled and unscheduled trips. The residents who are vulnerable to abuse are those who are isolated or do not have frequent contact with family members. Getting to know the nursing home staff can ensure that you have someone to contact should you suspect something is amiss with your loved one's treatment. If you build a relationship with staff members, your connection could encourage them to call you should they become concerned.

If you suspect your loved one is a victim of elder abuse, there are steps you can take to ensure her safety. Neither you nor she is alone in this situation. There are many options available to individuals seeking to right the wrongs of elder abuse.

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