What constitutes elder abuse in Washington, D.C.?

Recognizing the signs of elder abuse and knowing what to do when it happens is imperative to keeping loved ones safe.

The elderly are some of the most vulnerable people in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, people try to take advantage of older Americans too often. As the National Center on Elder Abuse points out, about 10 percent of elderly people suffer wrongdoing, though it is possible that the number is actually much higher because abuse can be hard to track.

Understanding how abuse can manifest is an important part of protecting the older population, as is knowing what to do when it occurs.

Defining abuse

Elder abuse can take many forms, such as the following:

  • Physical abuse: Someone injures or harms the victim.
  • Emotional abuse: Someone berates, harasses of otherwise causes emotional pain and suffering.
  • Financial abuse: Someone takes advantage of the elderly person for his or her financial benefit.
  • Sexual abuse: Someone rapes or otherwise assaults the victim.

In each of these cases, the abuse is considered illegal and is punishable by law.

The symptoms

The signs of each type of abuse can vary. For example, someone suffering physical harm may have visible marks and bruises or broken bones. Financial abuse can turn up through missing money and unusual activity on certain accounts. Sexual abuse may result in a sexually transmitted disease or bloody sheets.

An elderly person who is abused may also experience behavioral changes. He or she may appear depressed or agitated. It is possible he or she will become withdrawn and not want to participate in his or her usual activities. Those in an assisted living facility may suddenly seem upset with a nursing home care worker.

Experts warn that experiencing just one symptom of abuse does not necessarily mean that it is taking place. However, if multiple signs are appearing, it is likely that wrongdoing is afoot.

The perpetrators

Though anyone can commit elder abuse, the NCEA points out that it is most often adult children or the victim's spouse who engages in the behavior. This is especially true when it comes to financial abuse, as 57.9 percent of incidents involved a family member committing the crime.

Take immediate action

At the first sign that something is amiss with a loved one, friends and family are urged to take immediate action. The D.C. Department of Human Services provides a hotline that people can call to report the suspected abuse. From there, a social worker will investigate the matter and help the victim through removing him or her from a dangerous situation, lining up counseling and seeking out medical care.

Whenever elder abuse occurs, the perpetrator should be held responsible for the damage he or she causes. Anyone who would like to know more about this topic should speak with a personal injury attorney in Washington, D.C.