Domestic abuse is a troubling problem in the United States, with much of the focus being on children and couples. Elder abuse is something that might not be on everyone’s radar. However, it occurs more often than you might think.
What is Elder Abuse?
In this context, an elder is another word for an older adult or those over the age of 60. Elder abuse is when a person in a position of trusts abuses an older person. Several types of harm can take place.
This type of harm is verbal or non-verbal behavior that is intended to cause fear, mental anguish, or distress. The abuser attempts to control, humiliate, or threaten the victim.
Signs of psychological or emotional abuse are unexplained changes in behavior, withdrawal from normal activities, and changes in levels of alertness. An elder who is purposefully kept isolated from others is another potential sign.
This crime is physical force used to cause injury, pain, or impairment. Physical abuse includes but isn’t limited to violence such as hitting, choking, suffocating, pushing, slapping, burning, or other acts which cause bodily harm.
Evidence of physical abuse is usually visual and includes scratches, welts, cuts, or bruises on the body. But, signs of fear of other people can also indicate physical abuse.
This elder abuse includes forced or unwanted sexual contact of any kind. Acts committed on someone who is mentally incompetent and cannot give consent is also considered sexual abuse. Signs of sexual abuse include unexplained bruises or sores, and unexplained sexually transmitted diseases.
If a caregiver fails to meet an older person’s essential needs, that is neglect. A neglected person lacks the fundamental necessities like food, shelter, medical care, clean clothing, and basic hygiene.
Signs of neglect are a lack of medical aids such as glasses or false teeth, poor personal hygiene, a filthy or overly cluttered home, or utilities turned off. Also, look at lack of food or appropriate clothing.
Not all elder abuse is physical. Financial exploitation can also occur which includes:
- Improper use of an older person’s resources
- Depriving someone of access to their assets
- Withholding information about personal benefits or resources
- Improper use of guardianship
- Theft of money or personal belongings
- Use of deception to get someone to surrender their property
- Improper use of Power of Attorney
Signs of financial abuse are the inability to pay for things a person should be able to afford, lack of amenities, or signing over properties.
Elder Abuse Statistics In Rhode Island
Nationwide, elder abuse occurs in one in ten individuals over 60 years of age. This number includes cases of neglect and exploitation. In Rhode Island, the statistics are grim. According to The 2016 Rhode Island Annual Report on Elder Abuse, there were 1,247 cases reported that year, and 1,185 cases of self-neglect. The Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs received 8,083 referrals, calls, and faxes in 2016.
Falsely Accused of Elder Abuse?
The mere suspicion of elder abuse can ruin your reputation and your career. Sometimes people who are genuinely trying to help are charged with a crime. Sometimes this is because of a senior’s degenerating perceptions. If this happens, it is imperative to speak to a licensed attorney who can evaluate the evidence. An experienced lawyer can help you get the charges dropped.
Rhode Island Elder Abuse Laws
The state of Rhode Island takes elder abuse very seriously. People over 60 are the state’s fastest-growing demographic, and elder abuse crosses all race, gender, and socio-economic lines. The potential for abuse is why the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office has a particular Elder Abuse Unit.
Seek A Defense Attorney
It is essential to hire a defense attorney with experience in Rhode Island law. There are many defenses to present depending on the unique circumstances of each case. If someone accuses you of elder abuse, don’t hesitate to hire an attorney immediately.
You should also take the time to document all the facts you can remember about your interactions with the older adult. Clear your mind and write down everything you remember. Write down examples of when and where encounters took place, the purpose of any visits, and any regular duties you have with the individual. Additionally, establish a paper trail of financial records.
Reporting Elder Abuse in Rhode Island
In RI, a law states that anyone who suspects elder abuse must report it to the Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs. People can file neglect and abuse reports 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 401-462-0555. Failure to do so could result in a fine of up to $1,000.
Accused of elder abuse, or have you witnessed abuse? Don’t just brush it aside. Be prepared and call an attorney knowledgeable of the complexities elder abuse law in Rhode Island. Consultations are free of charge, and you can schedule a confidential appointment today.