St. Louis, MO

On November 12, 2014, St. Louis’ local KMOV TV station aired a broadcast pertaining to a home healthcare worker who is accused of stealing almost $61,000 for her personal use from her client. In that broadcast, Jasmine Huda, a reporter for KMOV, interviewed Martha Brown about the bond between a client and their caregiver and how easy it is for the client to be taken advantage of. Click on the image below to see the broadcast.

Financial exploitation is very common, and is only one form of elder abuse.

What is Elder Abuse?

Every year, thousands of older people are abused, neglected and exploited. Most of these people are frail and vulnerable, and cannot help themselves, depending on others to meet their most basic needs. Abusers can be both men and women, and may be family members, friends, or home healthcare providers.

Elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.

Abuse May Be:

Financial Exploitation – The illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit. This can include:

  • Significant withdrawals from the elder’s accounts
  • Items or cash missing from the senior’s household
  • Additions of names to the senior’s signature cards
  • Financial activity that the senior couldn’t have done, such as withdrawals from an ATM when the account holder is bedridden
  • Unnecessary services, goods or subscriptions
  • Suspicious changes in Wills, Powers of Attorney and Policies

As Martha mentioned in her broadcast, seniors forge an emotional bond with their caregivers. When that person (caregiver) starts asking for money and portraying themselves as being in dire circumstances, the elderly person wants to help because the caregiver is an important part of their life.

Physical Abuse – The use of force that results in physical pain, injury or impairment. Such abuse includes not only physical assaults such as hitting, slapping or shoving, but the inappropriate use of drugs, restraints or confinement. Bruises, broken bones, abrasions and burns may be an indication of physical abuse or mistreatment.

Sexual Abuse – The non-consensual sexual contact of any kind. Activities such as showing an elderly person pornographic material, forcing the person to watch sex acts, or forcing the elder to undress are considered sexual elder abuse.

Emotional Abuse – Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts.

Verbal forms of emotional elder abuse include:

  • Intimidation through yelling or threats
  • Humiliation and ridicule
  • Habitual blaming or scapegoating

Non-verbal psychological elder abuse can take the form of:

  • Ignoring the elderly person
  • Isolating an elder form friends or activities
  • Terrorizing or menacing the elderly person

Neglect – The failure to fulfill a caretaking obligation constitutes more than half of all reported cases of elder abuse. It can be intentional or unintentional, based on factors such as ignorance or denial that the elderly person in their care needs as much care as he or she does. Neglect can be:

  • Unusual weight loss, malnutrition or dehydration
  • Untreated physical problems, such as bed sores
  • Unsanitary living conditions: soiled bedding or clothes, bugs, dirt
  • Being left unbathed and dirty
  • Unsafe living conditions (no heat or running water, faulty wiring)
  • Unsuitable clothing for the weather

Reporting Elder Abuse in the U.S.

If you are an elder who is being abused, neglected or exploited, tell at least one person. Tell your doctor, a friend or a family member whom you trust. Or call your State’s Elder Abuse Hotline. In Missouri, that number is 800/392-0210.

Anyone can report elder abuse. Be alert. The suffering is often in silence. If you notice changes in a senior’s personality or behavior, you should start to question what is going on. Remember, it is not your role to verify that abuse is occurring, only to alert others of your suspicions. Please visit the webpage What If I Suspect Abuse, Neglect, or Exploitation? to learn what you should do if you are concerned that someone you know is being abused.

There are services providing resources in the community for stopping abuse, including counseling, legal services and case management at www.preventelderabuse.org. (National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse).

The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) has a public section of the site that defines elder law, issues to consider and questions to ask when finding an attorney, and how to find an elder law attorney. The attorneys at Martha C. Brown & Associates, LLC are members of NAELA.