Sulphur Police Detective Greg Martin spoke about ways to identify, prevent, and address elderly abuse issues at the Sulphur Senior Center, on Maple Street Thursday.
Martin has been with the department for 12 years and investigates domestic abuse and battery cases, child sex and child abuse cases.
Some estimates range as high as five million elderly abused each year in the United States. “But only one in 14 cases of the abuse are reported,” Martin said. “One in 10 elderly Americans have experienced some form of abuse.”
Martin said elderly abuse includes not only physical and sexual abuse, but neglect, abandonment, emotional manipulation, and extortion or misuse of finances by those appointed as caretakers. Emotional abuse, threats of assault and harassment are the most commonly reported.
According to National Council on Aging statistics, 60 percent of those who abuse the elderly are male and female family members. And they are frequently adult children or spouses.
Martin said the elderly often are more vulnerable to abuse because of social isolation or mental, or physical disability. “Recent studies show that nearly half of those with dementia experience abuse or neglect,” he said. “Abuse also occurs at higher rates for adults with physical disabilities.”
Some of the signs of abuse include unexplained cuts, bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, or burns. Signs of emotional abuse include unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, unusual depression, strained or tense relationships, and frequent arguments between a caregiver and their client.
Red flags include belittling behavior toward the elderly person. Sudden changes in an elderly person’s financial situation are a red flag that there may be extortion or theft. Bed sores, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are some of the signs of neglect.
“Elders who’ve been abused have a 300 percent higher risk of death compared to those who have not been mistreated,” said Martin.
According to the NCA, financial exploitation is self-reported at a higher rate than self-reported rates of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse or neglect. Yet, underreported elder financial abuse and fraud still costs Americans $36.5 million a year.
Martin said the state has several statutes on the books outlining penalties for elderly abuse including cruelty to or exploitation of a person with infirmities, as well as sexual battery.
Education is critical in preventing abuse, according to Martin. Other keys to prevention include taking care of your health, seeking treatment for illnesses or addictions, attending elderly support groups or regularly visiting your local senior center, and reporting abuse after the first instance.
Martin also recommended that seniors appoint Power of Attorney to someone they trust absolutely and regularly review their wills. “Stay active to decrease social isolation, open your own mail, and don’t give out personal information over the phone,” he said.