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Warning Signs of Elder Abuse and Neglect During COVID-19
Elder abuse occurs when an older person experiences physical, emotional, financial, or sexual harm at the hands of another person. Senior citizens may also experience abandonment and neglect, often from the people that they trust to care for them.
Limited physical contact due to the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for family members to identify signs of elder abuse, leading to prolonged mistreatment. If you believe that your loved one is being harmed, it is important to keep an eye out for warning signs and seek help from a Seattle nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible.
The Pandemic Has Increased Elder Abuse
Elder abuse is a dangerous and unfortunately common occurrence among American senior citizens. In the United States, an estimated 1 in 10 adults aged 60 and older experience elder abuse and neglect on an annual basis. The mistreatment of older people has likely worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because older adults are at the highest risk of serious illness and death due to the virus, many elders have experienced isolation, financial hardship, and difficulty accessing the care that they need. According to researchers, all of these factors increase the risk of elder abuse, especially at nursing homes and assisted care facilities.
Common Signs of Elder Abuse and Neglect
Elderly people experience and process abuse in different ways, and it can be difficult to recognize whether someone is experiencing abuse. Some elders may feel ashamed and want to keep their experiences a secret.
However, there are a few common signs that an older person is being abused. If you suspect that your elderly loved one is being mistreated, keep an eye out for the following signs.
- Unexplained physical injuries, like bruising, cuts, burns, and broken bones
- Money, possessions, or financial assets that go missing
- Signs of poor hygiene, like bedsores, dirty clothes, and unwashed hair
- Sudden changes in behavior, such as becoming withdrawn or severely agitated
- Lack of medication or medical aids, such as mobility equipment
- Financial hardship, such as unpaid bills despite having enough money
- Unsafe, hazardous, or unclean living conditions
What to Do If You Suspect Elder Abuse or Neglect
If you believe that your loved one is experiencing elder abuse or neglect, seek help as soon as possible. If your loved one is in an emergency situation or required immediate medical care, call 911 immediately.
You should also file a report with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). A representative from Adult Protective Services or Residential Care Services will screen and investigate the incident. You may be contacted to provide more evidence or information on behalf of your loved one.
After filing a report and getting your loved one to safety, speak to a Washington elder abuse attorney. In addition to pursuing criminal charges and a DSHS investigation, your loved one may also be eligible for a lawsuit against the abuser. If the abuser is an employee of a nursing home or long-term care facility, your loved one can also hold the facility liable for the losses that he or she sustained.
Contact a Washington nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible following the incident to discuss your loved one’s rights and next steps.