Elder abuse is one of the most undetected and underreported problems in the U.S. Tragically, the vast majority of these offenses are committed by a family member. Many instances of abuse also occur in unlicensed personal care homes.
What is Elder Abuse?
- Abuse: Hitting, beating, slapping, pushing, pinching; improperly using restraints; improperly using medications; withholding food, water or medications; inflicting mental pain, anguish or distress through verbal or non-verbal acts; non-consensual sexual contact of any kind; threatening someone with violence, nursing home placement, abandonment or neglect.
- Neglect: Failure to provide basic care or needed services; failure to provide shelter, clothing, food, or medical care; leaving the person alone for long periods of time.
- Exploitation: Taking away property or money by undue influence, force, threat, or deceit; misuse of financial resources for another’s gain; taking a Social Security check without consent; forging a signature; offering a “prize” that the victim has won, but must pay money to claim; eliciting support for phony charities; having a power of attorney document or other documents signed without the victim knowing what he or she is signing.
How Do I Know if Someone is the Victim of Elder Abuse?
- Signs of Physical Abuse: Unexplained burns, cuts, bruises, and bleeding; sprained or broken bones; and injuries that happen over and over. Another suspicious sign is when the person doesn’t want to see a doctor about his/her injuries.
- Signs of Sexual Abuse: Torn or bloody clothes, 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.
- Signs of Neglect: Being messy or unclean, dirty clothes, unkempt hair or skin rashes; sudden weight loss or loss of appetite; bedsores; missing or broken dentures, eyeglasses, hearing aids or walkers.
- Signs of Emotional/Psychological Abuse: Acting withdrawn or frightened; behavior changes that you can’t explain; trouble sleeping; rocking back and forth or mumbling to oneself; acting depressed, confused or showing no interest in things the person used to enjoy.
- Signs of Financial Exploitation: 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 a will or power of attorney) signed by an elderly person who could not have understood what he or she was signing; and signatures on checks or documents that appear to be forged.
POWER OF ATTORNEY ACT
On July 1, 2017, the State of Georgia enacted the Uniform Power of Attorney (POA) Act. This new law protects citizens from those who misuse their fiscal responsibility. Someone with your POA must use your money in ways that benefit you and not their own interests.
What You Should Know:
- In a general power of attorney, your power of attorney agent will have broad legal authority over your affairs. In a special power of attorney, your agent will make decisions limited to only a few situations.
- To create power of attorney, you’ll need to compose and sign a document granting this authority and ask two adult witnesses to sign as well. Although it’s not required in all cases, it’s often a good idea to seek out a notary public as a witness.
- To cancel power of attorney, you can shred the original document, orally revoke the power of attorney and have a witness attest to the revocation, or sign a document that ends your agent’s legal authority. Regardless of your physical or mental state, you may end power of attorney at any time.
- If you are confused about the rights and limits of a power of attorney document you’ve been asked to sign, consult a lawyer. Do not sign a document that you don’t understand completely, and don’t agree to grant legal authority or accept legal responsibility unless you are comfortable with it.
Reporting Elder Abuse
Elder abuse is a crime. If you suspect that an elderly person has been abused, neglected or exploited, you should report it to your local law enforcement, as well as one of the following agencies, depending on where the abuse occurred:
- For abuse occurring in a private residence, contact:
Adult Protective Services 1-866-55AGING (1-866-552-4464), press “3” at the prompt.
Report online at aging.ga.gov, then click the “Report Elder Abuse” tab.
- For abuse occurring in a facility, such as a nursing home, personal care home or assisted living facility, contact:
Healthcare Facility Regulation