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What makes Charleston residents vulnerable to elder abuse?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has compiled a considerable amount of information about the abuse of older Americans. A large portion of elder abusers are not strangers to their victims. Sadly, Charleston caregivers and family members are among those who take advantage of the trust and mental and physical frailties of the elderly.

Senior citizens can be prone to abuse, whether they live apart from society or share a home with a relative. Emotional and physical abuse can be a carryover from a marriage with a long history of domestic violence. Elder abuse also may take the form of theft by a financially-troubled relative and neglect or mistreatment in a nursing home.

Older people are convenient targets. They sometimes don't move or respond quickly and often lack the strength to fight back. Due to chronic health problems common during aging, many elderly people are incapable of reporting abuse, hide or deny ill treatment and worse yet, are not taken seriously when they do report it.

Elder abuse occurs in homes and residential or healthcare facilities by strangers or trusted individuals. Mistreatment can involve direct pain and injury, caretaker abandonment or neglect, financial exploitation and verbal, sexual and emotional abuse. Keep in mind signs of physical abuse can be disguised with plausible excuses like "She fell while trying to get out of bed without help."

The victim may be silent or unable to be heard, but loved ones can step in. Stay alert to significant changes in health, behavior, financial status and personality. Adult Protective Services will investigate suspicions of elder abuse and provide or arrange services or referrals for assistance.

A liability attorney can help West Virginia victims and their families gather evidence and pursue civil claims for nursing home malpractice. A lawyer also can assist with a wrongful death complaint in cases of abuse that lead to an elderly person's death.

Source: Department of Health and Human Services, "Frequently Asked Questions" Oct. 07, 2014

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