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Preventing elder abuse by recognizing signs

As baby-boomers enter retirement, their families may be confronted with issues regarding their care. Our Illinois residents may not be aware of this, but nursing home abuse is a growing problem in today's society. Thus, it may be beneficial to have a basic understanding of what elder abuse is, signs to look out for and how to prevent it.

The Department of Health and Human Services' National Center on Elder Abuse notes that no one is immune to elder abuse, and it can happen in a home or at an institution. In a home, generally, a family member of the elder such as the spouse, child, caregiver or even a sibling may mistreat the elder. At an institution like a residential facility or nursing home, mistreatment of the elder may occur at the hands of a caregiver legally obligated to care for the elder.

Elder abuse falls under various categories which are not mutually exclusive. The abuse against an elder can be physical in nature, emotional or even sexual. Other forms of abuse may include abandoning an elder in need, financial exploitation or deliberate neglect, such as failing to provide food, shelter or care to an elder.

If a loved one is in a residential facility, it is important to recognize signs of elder abuse. These include unexplained bruises, bedsores, the elder showing sudden signs of depression or some other behavioral change. Although these signs may not automatically mean that abuse is occurring, they may be indicators that something is wrong.

Some ways to prevent elder abuse include raising awareness about the issue. If the elder is cognizant and aware, they should be encouraged to be involved in their community, to stay active and to be informed about their rights. Illinois has an adult protective and long-term care ombudsman program which can help elders with activities to help empower them.

Source: National Center on Elder Abuse, "Frequently Asked Questionse," Accessed May 4, 2015

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