Elder abuse is an umbrella term, signifying a caregiver or trusted individual intentionally causing an older person harm through their direct actions or negligence. The number of older Americans who suffer from elder abuse is staggering, with one out of every ten older Americans being abused or neglected. Despite the high volume of incidence, only one in fourteen cases of elder abuse are reported to the authorities.
No just society can allow marginalized groups to remain voiceless. At Hospice of South Louisiana, we see the value our elderly patients give to their families, and we’re humbled by their wisdom and rich contribution to our community. Hospice of South Louisiana stands with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day to speak out on this issue. We want to help educate people on the prevalence, manifestations, and causes of elder abuse. Silence allows elder abuse to continue, so we cannot in good conscious serve elderly patients and remain silent.
Recognizing Elder Abuse
Neglect and abuse can take many forms. Knowing the typical signs of elder abuse helps to enable detection. You should report a scenario if there is:
- Physical harm such as pushing, hitting, or restraining
- Emotional and verbal denigration (yelling, insulting, and threatening)
- Isolation (caused either by the elderly person’s caregiver or themselves)
- Sexual Abuse
- Negligence (such as the elderly person not being provided their medicine, medical care, personal hygiene needs, or nourishment)
- Over medicating
- Theft or mismanagement of the elderly person’s property, belongings, and finances.
Many of these indicators require greater knowledge into an elderly person’s life. Elder abuse can be spotted and reported without intimate knowledge if there is evidence of neglect or abuse on the elderly person’s body or property and if they are vocalizing fear or shame.
Ending Elder Abuse in Louisiana
Elder abuse is a national problem with research showing that approximately five million elders are abused each year. However, each state defines elder abuse differently and has its own resources for prevention. As a local Houma hospice provider, we want to join forces with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day to inform people of our local resources for ending elder abuse.
Louisiana law R.S. 15:1501-1511 was set in place to protect those over the age of 60 from their caregiver’s physical and emotional abuse and neglect. Encompassed in this law is the protection of seniors’ finances from misuse and theft. Even with many cases being unreported, elder financial abuse and fraud results in elderly Americans losing an estimated $2.9 billion to $36.5 billion dollars each year.
Our local, Louisiana resource for investigating suspected abuse is the state-administered Elder Protective Services program (EPS). EPS’ direct lines are 1-833-577-6532 and 225-342-0144. EPS received 485 high-priority reports in 2018 and investigated 94% of the cases reported.
The EPS intervenes in instances of neglect and exploitation. They ensure that the situation is stabilized by creating a resolution plan and remaining involved until the elder is deemed safe. If you have an elder in your life who is being neglected through their own inability to care for themselves, it should be reported to EPS. The two most common types of abuse reported in 2018 were caregiver neglect at 1,791 cases and self-neglect at 2,004 cases.
In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, there will be a Gulf Coast Elder Abuse Conference in nearby Slidell, Louisiana. It is free for all seniors to attend.
When to Report Suspected Elder Abuse
If you’re hesitant to report elder abuse because of uncertainty, remember that only 6% of cases reported in 2018 failed to meet the requirements for investigation. If you have reasonable cause to suspect that an elderly person is being neglected by a caregiver or themselves, the law requires you to report it. Failure to do so can result in criminal charges resulting in fines and, in some cases jail.
To encourage people to report, EPS has put provisions in place to protect those who bring forward cases of elder abuse.
- Reports can be made anonymously
- If no abuse is validated after investigating your report, you cannot be ordered to pay damages if you acted in good faith, and criminal charges cannot be brought against you
- Reports are confidential and require a signed release by the reporter in order for EPS to use the reporter’s name
Remember that by speaking out, you may be rescuing someone trapped in an abusive and negligent cycle. While it can be intimidating to involve ourselves, we must speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Grateful for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
Age does not diminish a person’s value. Hospice of South Louisiana values our elderly patients, and we’re proud to highlight World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and educate people about this national tragedy. We want to help end abuse and neglect. We take care of our patients in a way that preserves their dignity and honors them as a valuable member of society. If you’re looking for a safe and respectful hospice agency for your loved one, please reach out to us.