The number of elderly now residing in care homes and nursing facilities in the U.S is approximately 1.5 million, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). That number is only expected to grow as Americans are living longer than ever before, not to mention the aging Baby Boomer segment of the population who are fast approaching a time when they, too, will be facing their own aging challenges.

Alzheimer’s, dementia, vision and/or hearing impairments and other devastating health issues are just a few of the reasons why the elderly and their families seek help from in-home caregivers, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

For far too many, elder abuse is part of this already overwhelming time in their lives. No longer able to live independently, these at-risk seniors’ needs to rely on others for their well-being puts them at a greater risk for abuse and exploitation.

Elder abuse takes many forms, ranging from simple neglect to violent or sexual assault, insurance fraud, emotional abuse, and financial exploitation.

If you have a loved one who is receiving care, it’s important to know what you can do to shield him or her from possible abuse.

Elder Abuse Prevention Tips

Stay Connected: Elder abuse often occurs when a senior does not have strong connections with involved and engaged family members who visit regularly.

Keep Your Elder Active and Involved: Neglect often occurs because of an elderly person’s inability to care for him or herself. Help your elder to keep neglect at bay by encouraging him to continue to do as much for himself as possible, for as long as possible. See that he joins groups and activities that will keep him mentally and physically stimulated, alert and healthy.

Stop – Look, Listen and Smell: Being attentive when you visit your loved one can be the greatest weapon against elder abuse. Don’t just assume that your loved one’s complaints are to be chocked up to old age. Listen carefully to what he tells you and investigate any claim he makes. At each visit, spend some time observing his state and physicality as well as his surroundings. Does the facility smell clean? Is your loved one bathed regularly? Are the rooms, halls and bathrooms clean and free of debris? Does your loved one have any bruises or other sores on his person? Watch how caretakers interact with your loved one and other elders in the facility, when they think you’re not watching. Caring for your loved one during your visit by brushing his hair, clipping nails, and/or checking his teeth is a good way to see whether or not these things are being done regularly by the caretaker or if hygiene is going by the wayside.

Legal Paperwork: Financial abuse of your senior can be preventedby taking adequate steps before care is necessary. Your loved one should have the following documents prepared and in force beforehand:

Power of Attorney – Allows him to name a person to make financial decisions for him when he is no longer able to.
Health Care Power of Attorney and/or Mental Health Power of Attorney – Allows him to name someone to make any medical, psychological, psychiatric and other health-related care decisions once he is incapacitated.
Living Will – Allows the senior to state his end-of-life preferences, such as a Do Not Resuscitate Order.
HIPAA Authorization – Authorizing someone of his choosing to interact with healthcare providers and to receive information and records on your behalf.
If you suspect elder abuse or neglect follow the steps outlined in our post, What to Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse.