Atascadero attorney

Signs of elder abuse and what to do, from the Atascadero attorney

-Elder abuse is a serious issue that manifests in various forms, including physical, emotional, sexual, financial, and neglect.

Atascadero attorney Mary Ann Tardiff, in practice since 1986, offers legal resources to help prevent and overcome the results of elder abuse. While recognizing elder abuse and potentially abusive situations are critical to a senior citizen’s welfare, taking early steps to prevent abuse is also important.

Recognizing the signs and getting help are too often the first line of protection. Here are the top signs of elder abuse.

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is usually, but not always, easily identified by marks or bruises, and includes:

  • Unexplained injuries—bruises, burns, cuts, or broken bones without a reasonable explanation.
  • Frequent hospital visits—multiple trips to the emergency room or frequent doctor visits for injuries.
  • Signs of restraint—marks on wrists or ankles indicate the use of restraints. Frequent reports that the patient “required restraint” may also be indications of abuse.
  • Medication issues—overmedication to keep someone quiet and calm, or withholding medication for any reason are signs of potential abuse.
  • Signs of sexual abuse—including, bruising or bleeding around the genitals or breasts, diagnosis of STIs or genital infections, torn clothing, stained or bloody underclothing.
  • Neglect—poor personal hygiene, sudden weight loss, dehydration, unsanitary or hazardous living conditions, and untreated medical conditions are all signs of neglect.

Emotional or psychological abuse

Any behavior that is out of the ordinary needs further investigation into an elder’s welfare. Emotional abuse often begins gradually, leaving seniors feeling neglected and vulnerable. The most common signs include:

  • Withdrawal—the elder appears unusually depressed or agitated and withdraws from normal activities.
  • Behavior changes—sudden changes in behavior, such as becoming depressed, scared, or anxious.
  • Poor eye contact—Avoiding eye contact, or appearing fearful around certain individuals.
  • Unusual behavior—rocking back and forth, mumbling to oneself, or other unusual behaviors that are not normal for the person.
  • Isolation—preventing the elder from seeing friends and family.
  • Controlling behavior—restricting the elderly’s freedom, limiting their social interactions, or denying them the ability to attend religious or social events.

Financial abuse

Seniors are frequent targets for financial abuse. The signs include:

  • Unusual bank activity—large withdrawals, unusual charges, or frequent transfers.
  • Missing property—valuable items or money go missing from the elder’s home.
  • Unpaid bills—bills go unpaid despite sufficient financial resources.
  • Sudden changes in financial documents—unexpected changes in wills, power of attorney, or financial accounts.

Taking steps to establish a trust and conservatorship are preemptive measures for protecting the senior’s assets. The Atascadero attorney provides estate planning services to help protect seniors from the possibility of abuse.

How do you protect your loved one from elder abuse?

If you suspect elder abuse, taking prompt and appropriate action is critical to ensure the safety and well-being of your loved one.

  1. Ensure immediate safety—if the elder is in immediate danger, call emergency services right away and move the elder to a safe place.
  2. Get medical and mental health examinations— Get immediate medical attention. Consider a mental health evaluation to address any psychological impact of the abuse and help the elder recover from the emotional trauma.
  3. Document the abuse—record details about the suspected abuse, including dates, times, and descriptions of incidents, injuries, or behavioral changes. Take photos of any visible injuries or unsafe living conditions.
  4. Identify witnesses—note the names and contact information of any witnesses who might have observed the abuse.
  5. Report the abuse—report abuse to the local law enforcement and local adult protective services (APS). Most APS agencies have advocacy resources available for the victim and the victim’s family.
  6. Ombudsman: For abuse occurring in a nursing home or long-term care facility, contact the local long-term care ombudsman.
  7. Legal advice—consult with an attorney who specializes in elder law to explore legal options for protecting the elder and pursuing justice. Legal actions that can be performed by the Atascadero attorney include protective orders, conservatorships, trusts and wills, and other legal actions that may be required.

Once the elder is safe, maintain regular contact to provide the emotional support and security they need to continue to feel safe, involve them in decisions about legal decisions as much as possible, and make sure they continue to receive the necessary medical and mental health care.

Working with an expert

Mary Ann Tardiff believes that the first line of defense is prevention and estate plans that address the circumstances, needs, and protections for senior citizens are that first line. Her legal services and areas of practice include:

  • Elder law.
  • Wills, trusts, and estate planning.
  • Consumer and business law.

If a loved senior in your life has experienced abuse, or you are interested in setting up an estate plan and other legal protections, call Mary Ann Tardiff today!

Law Office of Mary Ann Tardiff
6907 El Camino Real, Ste A
Atascadero, CA 93422
(805) 451-6683