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What to do if a relative is abusing an elder in the family

As parents or grandparents age, it is natural for younger members of the family to step up and care for them, just the same as their parents or grandparents cared for them when they were young.

Unfortunately, opportunistic people will instead take advantage of older folks’ vulnerability–sometimes even members of their own family. 

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse takes several forms, including:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional or psychological abuse
  • Neglect or abandonment
  • Financial abuse

As people age and their mental and physical conditions decline, they will need others to help them carry out daily activities. When a family member takes on the role of a caretaker, others may see them as something of a saint. However, they sadly could be taking that role on solely in order to get closer to them so they can abuse them in some way.

What are the signs of elder abuse?

As is common with people who are subjected to traumatic abuse, they may have trouble telling someone outright what they are going through. If their mental capacity is diminished, they may not even know that what they are experiencing is wrong. For these reasons, it’s important to pick up on the signs that something isn’t right with your loved one:

  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Appearing to be depressed or out of it
  • Has unexplained injuries
  • Is agitated or violent

What to do about it

If you suspect or have proof that your loved one is being abused by another person in your family, it is important to take appropriate action and seek resources outside of the family. There are a wealth of resources out there, it’s just a matter of reaching out. There are many social service agencies on the local, state, and national levels that can help. If the elder is in urgent danger, do not hesitate to get local police involved.

Once the elder is back in a safe and stable environment, consider working with an elder law attorney to seek justice for the treatment they were subjected to. Abuse at the hands of a family member should not remain a family matter.

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