On June 15, citizens worldwide will commemorate World Elder Abuse Awareness Day to help bring awareness to the millions of older adults subject to elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation each year. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 2.1 million older Americans are mistreated annually, and that’s just the beginning. For every case of elder abuse reported, as many as five more remain unreported.
How do we protect our Florida loved ones from becoming the next unsuspecting victim of elder abuse? We want to share with you some simple steps that you can take to help protect your loved ones from harm.
1. Be proactive. Even if your loved one is in good health, being prepared in the event of an emergency will provide you both with some comfort. Encourage your loved one to establish an agent through his or her Durable Power of Attorney, designate a health care surrogate, and create a living will or a trust before an emergency occurs or his or her mental capacity diminishes. Work with your loved one and his or her attorney now to plan for any long-term care decisions that may need to be made in the future. These crucial legal decisions can help protect your loved one’s assets and simplify any future legal needs.
2. Stay informed. Make a point to visit your loved one often. By keeping in regular contact, you will recognize changes in behavior and have an opportunity to step in and take over affairs if necessary. Be involved, ask direct questions, and pay attention. Asking simple questions – for example, did you make this transaction? Or how did you get that bruise? – may reveal underlying issues and provide your loved one with a reliable outlet to express his or her concerns.
3. Know the signs. Elder care abuse typically begins with isolation. It’s crucial to have access to your loved one at any time of day or night. Not being allowed to meet with your loved one alone, unexplained signs of injury, or your loved one being taken to multiple medical facilities for treatment may signal that abuse is occurring. Keep in mind that abuse is not always physical. Neglect, emotional abuse, and financial exploitation are all forms of elder care abuse.
4. Check-in regularly, even from afar. If you live in a different state from your aging parent, you may not be immediately available to address any sudden changes in his or her health or daily needs. Many long-distance caregivers seek help from geriatric case managers and elder care law attorneys to oversee the day-to-day financial, medical, and long-term care concerns of their loved ones. Establishing a local support system is crucial. In addition to your elder care attorney, recruit the help of local neighbors, family, and friends to check in on your loved one every day or two. If the time comes that a caring neighbor isn’t enough, you may wish to consider long-term care options to ensure your loved one is receiving more assistance than can reasonably be provided at home and we can guide you through this process.
5. Know when to take further action. Remember, at all times we are a resource for you. Further, if you suspect your loved one is in immediate danger, don’t hesitate to call 911 or report the suspected abuse. If you don’t believe the danger is immediate but suspect abuse is occurring, voice your concerns to adult protective services, the state ombudsman, or involve the local police department. When it comes to protecting your loved one, no measure is too extreme.
Does this article raise more questions than it answers for you? We know how to plan for the elder care law needs of you and your Florida loved ones. Do not hesitate to contact our office to schedule a meeting about your planning needs.