Attorney General Chris Carr is recognizing World Elder Abuse Awareness Day by encouraging all Georgians to learn how to recognize, prevent and report instances of elder abuse. This year’s theme is “Building Strong Support for Elders.”
“The abuse, neglect or exploitation of Georgia’s older adults is absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” said Carr. “At the Department of Law, we are working each day to protect the most vulnerable among us. Information is key, and by learning the signs of elder abuse and how to report it, every Georgian can help to ensure our older adults are kept safe.”
According to the National Council on Aging, approximately one in 10 Americans age 60 or older has experienced some form of elder abuse. Not only can elder abuse result in physical injury, psychological pain and even early death, but it is estimated that older Americans lose as much as $36.5 billion a year due to financial abuse and fraud. Tragically, the majority of perpetrators are the adult children or spouses of the victims. Unfortunately, elder abuse is considerably underreported, with one survey indicating that only one in 24 cases of abuse is actually reported to authorities.
What is elder abuse?
Elder abuse includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. Below are explanations of each type of abuse, signs of abuse, and resources for reporting abuse and protecting loved ones.
Physical and Sexual Abuse:
- Physical abuse includes hitting, beating or intentionally hurting someone; the improper use of restraints or medications; forcing someone to remain in a bed or chair; or forcing someone to remain in a room, including locking an older person in a room.
- Signs of physical abuse can include unexplained burns, cuts, bruises or bleeding; sprained or broken bones; or recurrent injuries. Another suspicious sign is when an older person doesn’t want to see a doctor about their injuries.
- Sexual abuse includes inappropriate touching, rape, or making someone watch pornography or take off their clothes.
- Signs of sexual abuse can include torn or bloody clothing, especially underwear; sexually transmitted diseases; bruises, especially on both sides of the body or around the breasts or genitals; or bleeding from the vagina or bottom.
Emotional and Psychological Abuse:
- Emotional and psychological abuse includes threatening someone with violence, nursing home placement, abandonment or neglect; insulting, harassing, name calling or intimidating someone; isolating an older person from friends, family or activities; excessively criticizing, ignoring or making derogatory or slanderous statements; repeatedly raising the issue of death; or excluding the older person from decision making when they are capable and want to be included.
- Victims of emotional or psychological abuse may act withdrawn or frightened; have behavior changes that you can’t explain; have trouble sleeping; rock back and forth; mumble to themselves; act depressed or confused; or show no interest in things they used to enjoy.
- Neglect occurs when caregivers don’t tend to an older person’s needs. This includes not giving the person enough food, water, clothing, housing or medications; or abandoning them.
- Signs of neglect can include a messy or unclean appearance, such as dirty clothes or unkempt hair; skin rashes; sudden weight loss or loss of appetite; bedsores; or missing or broken dentures, eyeglasses, hearing aids or walkers.
- Financial exploitation is the misuse of financial resources for another’s gain.
- Signs of financial exploitation can include missing money or valuables; credit card charges the individual did not make; unusual activity in bank accounts; unpaid bills, rent or taxes; eviction notices; legal documents (such as will or power of attorney) signed by an elderly person who could not have understood what they were signing; or signatures on checks or documents that appear to be forged.
Reporting Elder Abuse
To report the abuse, neglect or exploitation of an older or disabled adult who lives in a private residence, contact Adult Protective Services at 1-866-55AGING (1-866-552-4464) and then press “3.” Georgians can also file an online report with the Department of Human Services Division of Aging Services at aging.georgia.gov/report-elder-abuse. If someone is in immediate danger, please call 911.
To report the abuse, neglect or exploitation of an older adult, disabled adult or resident in a long-term care facility, contact the Georgia Department of Community Health Healthcare Facility Regulation at 1-800-878-6442.
Georgia Consumer Protection Guide for Older Adults
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division offers an excellent resource for older adults and their family members called the Georgia Consumer Protection Guide for Older Adults.
Available in English, Spanish and Korean, the Consumer Protection Guide for Older Adults includes an array of topics of importance to seniors, including elder abuse, financial exploitation, scams, identity theft, credit and debt, reverse mortgages, charitable giving, home repairs, funerals, advance directives, long-term care and more. Download the guide here or contact the Consumer Protection Division at 404-651-8600 to request free hard copies.
To read more about elder abuse, visit law.georgia.gov/key-issues/elder-abuse.