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Stopping elder abuse

by James Bendell
| February 20, 2011 8:00 PM

Nearly 5 million cases of elder abuse occur each year, but 85 percent go unreported. Abused elders have a 300 percent higher risk of death when compared to those not mistreated. Family, friends, caregivers and neighbors are the culprits in financial abuse cases more than half of the time. By 2030, the number of older Americans over age 85, those most at risk for abuse, will more than double. (Elder Justice Now Facts About Elder Abuse, June 2009).

The National Center on Elder Abuse divides the types of abuse into the following categories:

• Physical Abuse - Inflicting, or threatening to inflict, physical pain or injury on a vulnerable elder, or depriving them of a basic need.

• Emotional Abuse - Inflicting mental pain, anguish or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts.

• Sexual Abuse - Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.

• Exploitation - Illegal taking, misuse or concealment of funds, property or assets of a vulnerable elder.

• Neglect - Refusal or failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care or protection for a vulnerable elder.

• Abandonment - The desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.

Suspected cases of elder abuse should be reported to Adult Protection Services, an Idaho State agency empowered to investigate allegations of abuse committed against seniors or vulnerable adults. The agency provides specialized services to assist seniors in protecting themselves. APS works collaborate with law enforcement, Health and Welfare, nursing homes and managers of financial institutions to reduce the incidence of abuse. The toll free phone number for APS for North Idaho is (800) 786-5536. The after hours emergency number is (208) 667-3179.

Like most states, Idaho has mandatory reporting laws which require that certain persons must file an official report if they have reasonable cause to believe that a vulnerable adult is being abused, neglected or exploited. Among the persons who are required to report are physicians, nurses, dentists, social works, police and home care workers. Reports regarding nursing facilities and employees of nursing facilities must be reported to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. All others report to the Idaho Commission on the Aging.

James Bendell practices law at the Grupp Law Firm in Coeur d'Alene and is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.

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