Elder abuse is the mistreatment of an elderly person. It may include assault, threats of assault, verbal abuse, financial exploitation, physical and/or emotional neglect, or sexual abuse. Elder abuse is one of the most under-reported problems in the country because victims may be ashamed, unable to report it, or fearful of reprisals if they speak up. Abuse is more likely when the stress level of the individual providing the care is heightened as an older person’s condition worsens.
The following symptoms may be as important clues to, but not necessarily signifying, possible abuse:
• Bruises, burns, or cuts
• Dehydrated or malnourished appearance
• Anxiety, confusion, or withdrawal
• Expressions of shame, embarrassment, and fear
• Poor personal hygiene
• Overmedication or oversedation
• Sudden bank account withdrawals or closings
In most places, either Adult Protective Services (APS), the Area Agency on Aging (AAA), or the county Department of Social Services is designated as the agency to investigate allegations of elder abuse. If the investigators find abuse, they make arrangements for services to help protect the victim. Call the National Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 and ask for the county Area Agency on Aging telephone number.
In Berks County, the Office of Aging’s phone number is (610) 478-6500. Possible elder abuse can be reported anonymously at 1-866-623-2137.