Has your elderly loved one suddenly become withdrawn or prone to unusual emotional outbursts? Does he or she appear to be overmedicated or show signs of neglect in his or her personal hygiene? Does he or she have unexplained or untreated physical injuries? Have his or her finances taken a sudden, unexpected turn for the worse without explanation?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, don’t ignore these red flags. They could indicate serious elder abuse is taking place.

The possibility that an elderly loved one is being abused or exploited by a caregiver can feel overwhelming. But don’t be discouraged: help is out there. First, you must report your concerns to authorities as soon as possible. Your family member could face lasting physical and emotional harm from mistreatment, and it is essential that you take steps right away to protect your loved one. 

What is Elder Abuse?

The State of Nevada defines elder abuse as “any knowing, intended, or careless act that causes harm or serious risk of harm to an older person (age 60 or older) – physically, mentally, emotionally, or financially.” Abuse can range from negligent care and intentional isolation to fraud and sexual assault.

Elder abuse happens with alarming frequency and is dramatically under-reported. According to the National Council on Aging, 1 in 10 Americans aged 60 and over have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some studies put the number of abused seniors as high as 5 million each year. Researchers estimate that just 7 percent of abuse cases are reported to authorities in the United States. Fear of reprisal, shame, and impaired mobility or ability to communicate can all make reporting these crimes more difficult for abused seniors.

Abuse of a vulnerable adult is a serious crime, and those found guilty are subject to criminal and civil penalties. Nevada has led the nation in enforcement and funding for programs to protect seniors and vulnerable adults–ranking 2nd in the nation in a recent survey of states. Still, with a large and growing population of aging residents, elder abuse remains a serious concern for our state. 

The Aging and Disability Services Division of Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services is charged with reporting elder abuse statistics for the state. In 2019, the agency found 8,936 cases of elder abuse were reported in Nevada. Clark County accounted for more than half of those cases. The majority of substantiated cases involved abuse or financial exploitation.

Warning Signs

The National Center on Elder Abuse identifies a number of warning signs that could indicate abuse of one type or another. If any of these red flags are present, reach out to authorities. 

Physical warning signs

  • Bruises, black eyes, welts, fractures or broken bones
  • Untreated injuries in various stages of healing
  • Signs of being restrained
  • Signs of sexual assault
  • Signs of over-medication or under-utilization of prescribed drugs
  • Signs of dehydration, malnutrition, untreated bed sores, and poor personal hygiene
  • Desertion of a vulnerable senior at a hospital, a nursing facility, or other institution

Emotional, verbal red flags

  • Sudden change in behavior
  • Extreme withdrawal from relationships
  • A caregiver’s refusal to allow visitors to see an elder alone
  • An elder’s report of being mistreated, hit, yelled at, financially taken advantage of, or otherwise harmed by a caregiver

Financial warning signs

  • Unauthorized use of a senior’s ATM card
  • Abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents
  • Substandard care or bills going unpaid despite adequate financial resources
  • Unexplained, sudden transfer of assets to caregiver

Trust Your Gut and Take Steps Right Away

If you suspect abuse, neglect, exploitation, isolation, or abandonment of a vulnerable family member–if any of the above situations apply–don’t wait to act: take steps right away to protect your loved one.

If he or she is in immediate danger, call your local police department at 911. If the threat to his or her safety is not immediate, call the state’s Adult Protective Services (APS) as soon as you can. 

APS Abuse Hotline

Las Vegas/Clark County             (702) 486-6930

Statewide/All Other Areas          (888) 729-0571

You can report individuals or a facility where you believe abuse is taking place using the APS Abuse Hotline. Under Nevada law, APS must begin investigating the claim within 3 business days of your call.

“When in doubt, please report it,” Carrie Embree, the governor’s Consumer Health Advocate, urged the public during her testimony last year on a bill to expand protections for Nevada’s vulnerable adult population. Embree pointed out that it’s the department’s job to determine the validity of suspicions and that the identity of the reporter is always confidential.

We are here to help

If you or a loved one has experienced elder abuse, let our compassionate, dedicated team of attorneys walk you through your full legal rights. Gina Corena & Associates have helped thousands of Las Vegas residents who have experienced personal injuries win the compensation they deserve. Schedule a consultation and let us provide competent legal guidance tailored to the circumstances of your case. We are here for you. Contact Gina Corena & Associates at (702) 680-1111 or complete our online contact form.

In addition to these concerns, there are other specific situations that require attention. For instance, if you suspect that a business establishment has contributed to an accident due to serving alcohol to an already intoxicated person, you might want to explore dram shop liability. Similarly, if you’re concerned about the treatment of your elderly loved one in a care facility, it’s essential to be informed about nursing home abuse claims. Moreover, understanding the dram shop laws in Nevada can be crucial if you’re dealing with such cases in the state.

As founder of Gina Corena & Associates, she is dedicated to fighting for the rights of the people who suffer life-changing personal injuries in car, truck and motorcycle accidents as well as other types of personal injury. Gina feels fortunate to serve the Nevada community and hold wrongdoers accountable for their harm to her clients.

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