Elder Abuse: What it Is, and How to Spot it

Elder abuse refers to the abuse or neglect of an elderly person or vulnerable adult, usually by a caregiver.  A caregiver can be a medical or professional caregiver, or a family member or friend.

It’s surprisingly common, and many elderly people who are the victims of abuse will not speak up – out of shame, fear, or because of cognitive or other disabilities that make it difficult or impossible to adequately verbalize what they have experienced.

As the loved one of an elderly person who may be suffering abuse, you may be their only lifeline. It’s up to you to know the signs and take the steps necessary to protect your loved one.


Who is Most at Risk of Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse can happen to any vulnerable adult and there have been a number of cases of elder abuse in the news where the abuse is taking place in a nursing home.

This type of abuse can also happen in the victim’s own home by a supposedly loving family member. In fact, that’s one of the more common scenarios.

Whether the abuse takes place in a nursing home or the victim’s home, there are certain risk factors everyone should be aware of. Those who are most vulnerable include:

  • Women
  • Socially isolated or home-bound individuals
  • Those older than 80
  • People with dementia or mental health issues
  • Those with addiction issues
  • People with serious or chronic illnesses


Signs Your Loved One is a Victim of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse takes many forms, and there are many kinds of symptoms depending on the type of abuse. What follows is a very general overview of signs to watch for if you suspect abuse with your elderly loved one:

  • Physical signs such as cuts and bruises, burns, or an increased instance of falls or “clumsy” accidents, or broken bones
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Depression, withdrawal, or marked changes in mood that are otherwise unexplained
  • Increased anxiety, aggression, or agitation that is otherwise unexplained
  • An increase in disorientation or confusion, particularly around the way an injury occurred
  • A decline in hygiene, either in the person individually or their living space
  • Declining financial circumstances, which may be the result of financial abuse
  • Bedsores or other medical issues that go untreated
  • Sunken eyes or cheeks—a sign of poor health, nutrition and circulation

Signs a Caregiver May Be Abusive or Neglectful

Caregivers, who may or may not be family members, are frequently the perpetrators of elder abuse or neglect.

When looking for signs of abuse or neglect, do not just keep an eye on the elderly person; pay attention to their caregiver as well. The caregiver’s behavior and their relationship with the elderly person may give you vital clues.

Some signs the caregiver may be abusive or neglectful include:

  • Belittling, insulting, or harassing the elderly person
  • Isolating the elderly person—not letting them have visitors, especially alone
  • Tense interactions or frequent arguments between the two
  • Mistakes surrounding the elderly person’s medication
  • Excessive or frequent gifts given by the elderly person to the caregiver
  • Controlling the elderly person’s finances—especially if the elderly person seems to lack basic needs such as food, water, adequate shelter, or medical treatment
  • A lack of affection shown to the elderly person by the caregiver
  • Controlling or violent behavior toward the elderly person
  • Discussing the elderly person as if they were a burden
  • Having a personal history of substance abuse, family violence, or an unrehabilitated criminal record
  • Providing unconvincing or conflicting explanations of a physical injury


What to Do If You Suspect Your Elderly Loved One is a Victim Of Abuse

If you believe your elderly loved one is in immediate danger, you should call 911 or the police.

If you suspect abuse or neglect of your loved one but the danger is not immediate, you should also make your concerns known to a doctor, a friend or family member, or someone else you trust.

In Georgia, certain professionals including physicians, psychologists, nurses, social workers, clergy members, those who work for financial institutions, and more are legally required to report instances of elder neglect and abuse.

You can also file a report yourself by getting in touch with the Department of Human Services Division on Aging.

Finally, you should absolutely talk to a lawyer. Extricating an elderly loved one from an abusive situation often involves navigating lots of legal issues such as guardianship and conservatorship, while protecting your loved one. We have helped many people in this situation, and we can help you, too.

Call us now at (678) 738-0056. The consultation is free and our team is waiting 24/7 to take your call.


Protecting Your Elderly Parents from Financial Abuse

As people age, they become increasingly vulnerable to various kinds of fraud—due to factors including declining health, social isolation, and the onset of dementia and other cognitive issues.

If you believe your parent or elderly loved one is the target of financial abuse, there are concrete steps you can take to protect them. And the first step is recognizing the problem.

Elder financial abuse can take many forms. These include:

Fraud Perpetrated by Strangers

Fraudulent lotteries and sweepstakes. Fraudsters may call and tell the victim that they won a lottery, and there’s prize money waiting for them. The catch? The victim has to send in money first to pay taxes on what they won.

Law enforcement impersonation. In this scheme, a scammer calls a senior impersonating a law enforcement agent. They may tell the senior they violated some traffic rule and owe a fine, or that a family member has been arrested and needs bail money.

Fake charities. In this common scenario, the perpetrator will call a senior pretending to be from a charity, and ask for a donation.

IRS scams. Scammers may call seniors claiming to be from the IRS, telling the senior they’re behind on their taxes, haven’t paid taxes, or have committed some tax-related crime—and demand payment.

Impersonation of family members. Some scammers call the elderly and pretend to be a family member—such as a child or grandchild. They’ll ask for money to deal with an unplanned financial emergency.

Email scams. “Phishing” scams involve sending an email from a legitimate-sounding organization asking the senior to verify sensitive personal information.  This is often the beginning of identity theft.


Fraud from Trusted Professionals

Financial institutions. Bank employees have been known to steer seniors toward loans with high interest rates, questionable annuities, reverse mortgages, and other investments that make the bank a lot of money—but are not in the senior’s best interests.

Healthcare providers. Doctors may convince elderly patients to pay for procedures or medications they do not need. Nurses and home health aides who work in the victim’s home may have access to their money, property, and credit cards and take advantage of the elderly (and their generosity).

Nursing home staff. There have been extensive examples of financial abuse within nursing homes—such as cashing residents’ checks without permission; coercing residents to change wills against their wishes; or outright theft of money or possessions.


Exploitation from Caretakers, Friends, and Family Members

Power of attorney fraud. Sometimes, family members or caretakers use their power of attorney to gain control over the victim’s money or property and then take advantage of the individual “legally” by violating their fiduciary duty to that person.

Check or bank card fraud. Those close to an elderly person—often live-in caretakers—can gain access to the victim’s checks, credit cards, or debit card without permission. Banks should prevent this kind of fraud, but they are not always effective at spotting it.

New “friendship.” A scammer may befriend a senior, and then ask for money to cover periodic “emergencies.” The difficult thing is that the senior often willingly gives the money—and the scammer may be playing on the senior’s declining mental faculties.

Threats and physical abuse. In some cases, a caretaker might physically abuse or intimidate an elderly victim into giving them money, access to accounts, checks, or financial “gifts”; changing their will; or signing over other aspects of their financial life under duress.

Neglect or withholding of necessary care. The caretaker may coerce the victim into handing over money, assets, or passwords in other ways, such as withholding or threatening to withhold food, medications, and other necessities.

How Can You Help an At-Risk Loved One? 

Protecting an elderly loved one from financial abuse can be a complex endeavor. A lot depends on the person’s living situation, mental capacities, power of attorney, and other factors.

At The Taylor Law Group, we have extensive experience helping extricate elderly people from abusive financial situations. We can also work with you to lay a strong foundation for financial protection before your loved one needs it.

Steps we can take include:

Preventive protections. We work with seniors and their families to set protections in place that impact estate planning, housing planning and power of attorney.

Guardianship. If your elderly loved one is medically or mentally incapacitated, we’ll help you choose a trustworthy guardian and establish a framework to keep the senior and their assets secure.

Aggressive litigation. With an outstanding track record of success, we are more than capable of defending your elderly loved one’s interests in court—and getting the restitution they deserve if they were a victim of fraud.

Call us at (678) 738-0056. Your consultation is free—and our team is available 24/7 to help you.


How Can You Prove Elder Abuse in a Nursing Home?

Nursing homes are supposed to be safe, caring place for elderly loved ones. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case and elder abuse is a growing concern in many states, Georgia included. Proving elder abuse in a nursing home may be difficult for less-aware seniors, but there are ways to prove it for criminal and civil liability purposes with the right elder care attorney.


There are six types of elder abuse:

  1. Physical abuse, which involves bodily harm like hitting or pushing. Bed sores may also be a sign of physical abuse.
  2. Emotional, or psychological, abuse includes threats, yelling, and manipulation.
  3. Financial abuse occurs when money or belongings are stolen, and can include check forgery and identity theft.
  4. Neglect includes anytime a caregiver ignores the senior’s needs. Bed sores are a sign of medical neglect.
  5. Abandonment occurs when a senior in need of care is left alone with no appropriate substitute caregiver.
  6. Sexual abuse includes any time a caregiver forces the senior to watch or engage in sexual acts.


How to Prove Elder Abuse or Neglect in a Trial

You will need to prove three main points in an elder abuse or Neglect case against a nursing home.

  1. The care contract showed the nursing home owed care to the patient.
  2. Those duties were breached. (This will require documentation.)
  3. Your elder family member was injured as a result of that abuse or neglect.

Applicable evidence depends on the type of elder abuse. Physical injuries are easiest to prove, as long as an incident report was completed at the time of the injury. Photos of bruises should be documented as thoroughly as possible, along with documentation from medical staff and family members.

Maintaining notes of conversations with nursing home or medical staff are also acceptable evidence, along with written observations from family members. If the senior is cognizant, it’s recommended that they maintain notes of everything they experience as soon as they can.  In the alternative, it is important for you, as a trusted loved one, to record or memorialize what they are able to tell you about the incident.

Other types of abuse can be more difficult to prove, but any documents like bank statements, letters, or observations from family members can help provide the proof an elder care attorney needs for the case.


Bringing a Civil Lawsuit for Elder Abuse

Unlike a criminal lawsuit, civil lawsuits involve settlements and trials instead of sentences. The result is, more often than not, money being awarded to the injured party since we cannot “undo” what has been done.  This is the only fair compensation to be had in many cases.  If you have chosen to pursue a civil lawsuit for elder abuse or neglect and are seeking damages, it’s important that your elder care attorney determines and sets damages for physical and mental pain and suffering as well as the cost of necessary medical treatment.

An experienced attorney will look at the evidence, hear your story, and determine a suitable amount with which to begin negotiations. Cases are complex and unique, but by working with the right attorney you can ensure your elder family member receives the best resolution possible.

To begin helping your family heal from elder abuse or neglect, please call us at (678) 738-0056. Our team of compassionate, experienced elder care professionals will ensure that you have the best resolution possible based on the facts of your case. We answer the phone 24/7 and look forward to speaking to you.


What Does an Elder Care Attorney Do? 

The Taylor Law Group, P.C. specializes in family law during lifespan. Managing the complexities of aging relatives, like that of children, requires specific knowledge and experience. Working with an elder care attorney can help you protect your loved one by maximizing protections for peace of mind.

Elder care attorneys work in four primary areas:

  • Living wills & advanced directives
  • Guardianship
  • Financial representation
  • Nursing home abuse or neglect claims

Why a Living Will & Advanced Directives Documents are Important


Livings wills, also known as advanced directives, are documents important for all adults, but particularly for seniors. These documents determine a loved one’s wishes if they are ever not able to express them, including medical decisions in the event of declining health or emergency.

Elder care attorneys help elders and their families make the best decision for any situation involving a loved one who cannot for themselves. These decisions include who should hold power of attorney, long-term planning, and your loved one’s wishes and desires should they be in a medically fragile situation.

When looking for an elder care attorney, make sure they have experience in this area and that they take your specific needs into consideration when guiding you or your elder family member through the process.


Close up of a woman hand writing or signing in a document on a desk at home or office

What is Guardianship?

An elder care attorney can establish guardianship over the person and conservatorship over the property if an elderly loved one is determined to be incapacitated by an acute condition or chronic health concern. Guardians have a number of responsibilities, so choosing the right guardian is essential. These responsibilities include living arrangements, health decisions, and financial considerations, in addition to planning recreation activities and social contact.

The right elder care attorney for your family will be one that not only helps complete the required legalities, but also guides you in making the best decision for the elder and your family with compassion and dignity for your loved one and family.


Do You Need Financial Representation?

Senior citizens are among the most vulnerable to identity theft and financial abuse. An elder care attorney can act either as a financial representation to help protect an elder’s assets, or can help you establish representation by you for your loved one, as well as provide litigation services in the event that financial abuse occurs.

Financial representation may also include estate planning, gift tax matters, and housing planning. Hiring an elder care attorney can be a valued investment, especially if the elder’s assets are significant. With their direction, elders and their families can make the best decisions for their unique situation without the added stress experienced during a health concern.


Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect Claims

Navigating the legal system after a nursing home abuse or neglect claim is difficult. Elder care attorneys work with the elders and their families to ensure that they get the settlement they deserve and that the nursing home is held responsible for the physical, psychological and emotional injury caused by the home’s negligence.

Finding the right elder care attorney should be taken seriously. You want someone who is compassionate, knowledgeable, and has a history of successful litigation if your case needs to go to court.

Clarence O. Taylor, Your Marietta Elder Care Lawyer

Elder care law seeks to protect aging loved ones from abuse, neglect, and financial difficulties, and preparing now can help improve your elderly family members’ lives later. Hiring an elder care attorney is an important decision, and needs to be carefully considered. To talk with Clarence about your family’s needs, call us at (678) 738-0056. We answer the phone 24/7 and are here to help.