Elder abuse affects the lives of countless vulnerable individuals every year. According to one study from the American Journal of Public health, approximately one in ten elderly individuals suffer from at least one type of elder abuse every year, most of which goes unreported. Ensuring that your own loved one is protected begins by staying informed about elderly abuse facts. By better understanding means of documenting evidence of abuse, and learning legal precedent, you’ll be better prepared to handle suspicions of elder abuse.
Federal Elder Abuse Law
Ever since state protections specifically against elder abuse began to emerge in the early ‘80s, many more recent bills have been added into federal law to help bolster these increasingly important protections. However, for the most part, federal law regarding elder abuse is largely a matter of setting the right framework to help states handle the issue in their own way.
For example, the Elder Justice Act of 2009 was implemented as a part of the Affordable Care Act, establishing a coordinating council for elder abuse. The Elder Justice Act also authorized funding for research to help understand and prevent elderly abuse, and established a national institute to train and improve investigations of the crime.
There’s also the noteworthy Older American Act, which was amended in 2007 to provide funding for the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), which is principally concerned with providing training and education for national ombudsman. While acts like these do little to help victims directly, they go a long ways towards ensuring states can manage the task.
State Elder Abuse Law
As with federal law, individual state laws have been changing rapidly over the past decade. The latest trend is toward providing protection for the elderly who are targeted for financial exploitation. The state level is also where the majority of national elder abuse laws are written. For example, there are state laws pertaining to caregivers, abuse registries, criminal background check requirements, undue influence, and access to victims.
As you might expect, state laws vary widely by region. For example, Texas and Virginia both have laws that apply specifically to crimes against your family. There are also states that increase penalties for those who victimize the elderly, like CA, CO, IN, and FL. In short, it’s important to investigate the laws in your state to learn about the specifics of your area.
Sadly, documenting elder abuse can be quite difficult. This is particularly true when the abuse originates from the employees of a nursing home. Often times, the best way to begin is to seek help from the home’s ombudsman, who can help you report abuse, and can help ensure you record evidence correctly.
Many common forms of abuse will show up with signs like bruises, but those bruises will be long healed by the time that they will be needed as evidence. That’s why it’s important to take photographs of bruised or injured areas. Photographs will greatly bolster your claim when speaking with authorities.
You should also ask suspected victims to tell you about the abuse. Record all available details about the incidents that you learn about. While you may not know the name of the suspect, if you know what time the abuse occurs, that may be enough to direct the authorities. You may also find it useful to seek evidence by visiting a doctor.
While the latest state and federal laws have taken steps to improve prospects for countless vulnerable elderly individuals, the problem is far from solved. If you want to ensure your loved one is protected from elder abuse, you have to remain vigilant about spotting the symptoms of abuse, and be ready to correctly document that abuse. Thankfully, staying informed about these issues and knowing what to watch for is over half the battle.