As we age, most of us expect that we will be treated with more respect. After all, we’ve all been taught that it is proper to respect your elders. But unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. For many people, aging brings a slowing down of their physicality or medical issues which require help. For those with wicked intentions, this leaves the elder quite susceptible to abuse.
But what exactly is elder abuse? Is it a violent crime? The answer is that it can be. Violence committed against an elder is definitely elder abuse but there are also more subtle ways in which the elderly can be abused. We’ll look at what we mean by elder abuse here in Ohio, what laws the state has against elder abuse, and what can be done to help protect our elderly citizens.
What is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse is defined in Ohio Rev. Code § 5101.6(A) as “the infliction upon an adult by self or others of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or cruel punishment, with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish.”
Reading that you’ll notice that physical harm is mentioned, as well as injury, but that the definition reaches well beyond violence. Mental anguish is a loose term that can be interpreted in a broad way; pain is also a very broad term that can be used to describe quite a few different circumstances.
This is important because it allows for physical, sexual, mental, and even financial abuse to be charged as a form of elder abuse. By moving beyond violence itself to focus on pain and anguish lets our legal system better protect our elderly citizens.
It must also be noted that another section of that same code makes it clear that a caretaker’s failure to provide for their charge is also a form of elder abuse. So neglecting an elderly parent in your care, say by refusing to help feed them or help them with other basic functions they can’t handle themselves, is a form of elder abuse.
Elder abuse is unfortunately inflicted most often by relatives of the elderly individual and so signs of elder abuse should not be ignored simply because the elderly individual’s children (or caretaker) tells you they’re fine. If you suspect elder abuse may be happening then you should act to ensure it is properly punished.
What Elder Abuse Laws does Delaware, OH Have?
Ohio has its own laws against elder abuse but it is also accountable to laws at the federal level as well. Specifically, the Older Americans Act. This act was created in order to protect elders from abuse by allocating funds to the National Center on Elder Abuse to study how best to prevent elder abuse. It also put into practice legislation that requires long-term care programs to follow up on allegations of elder abuse within a single business day.
In Ohio, specifically, there are laws that make it mandatory for professional caregivers to report any elder abuse they see or suspect to the Department of Job and Family Services as soon as possible. This law has also been extended to make it mandatory for lawyers, doctors, clergy, and more to report it as well. Basically, anyone who could come across the abuse.
The punishments for elder abuse vary depending on the nature of the crime. For example, an assault will typically be punished with a longer term of imprisonment and a higher fine than would be given out for a financial crime. However, the thing that all of the crimes have in common is that punishments are more severe for abusing the elderly than they would be if the same crime was committed against an able-bodied individual in the middle of their life.
What Can Be Done to Protect Our Elderly Citizens?
The laws that Ohio has in place to protect our elderly citizens primarily deal with the reporting and investigating of elder abuse. Since we are legally required to report any suspected abuse, the hope is that people will speak up when they encounter such abuse and that this will quickly put a stop to it.
But one of the hardest things about elder abuse is identifying it in the first place. The reason that elder abuse is so prevalent is the simple fact that many elderly persons are isolated and unable to get outside help. Furthermore, many victims of such crimes suffer from disorders of the brain that makes communicating the abuse, or even remembering that it happened, difficult. This is why it is important to look for signs of elder abuse itself.
Signs of elder abuse include:
- Unexplained injuries
- Sexual diseases
- Inappropriate verbal abuse used against the victim
- Lack of hygiene
- Weight loss
- Misuse of medication
- Broken aids such as glasses or walkers
- Broken sentimental items
- Abnormal banking activities
- Sudden changes in titles
- Sudden inability to pay their bills
The best way to spot these signs is to stay in contact with elderly individuals. Many of the signs listed above can only be recognized by a change in a behavior or a circumstance and so continued contact is necessary. Those elderly persons that are isolated are at the greatest risk of suffering from elder abuse, so being a friend and staying in touch can be the key to stopping elder abuse quickly.
What Should I Do if I Suspect an Elder is Being Abused?
It is your duty to report any suspected abuse as quickly as possible. If you or one of your loved ones is the victim of elder abuse then reporting it can be the key to stopping it for the moment. But the crime should not go unpunished.
If someone you love has been the victim of elder abuse then give the Law Office of Brian Jones a call at (740) 883-3400 for a free consultation. Our experienced attorneys will be able to assist you in getting help to stay protected, as well as getting compensation for the damages suffered.