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How can Floridians spot signs of possible elder abuse?

While it's not uncommon for people to live into their 80s and even 90s in the 21st century, many of our elderly family members require professional care, whether in nursing homes, assisted living facilities or from in-home caregivers. Sadly, when they are vulnerable and dependent, they can fall victim to neglect, abuse or exploitation by the people whose job it is to care for them and sometimes even by trusted friends or family members.

Elder abuse can be physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or some combination of these. In some cases, caregivers, including medical professionals, may neglect to provide them with medical care, food, safety or other necessities. Financial exploitation of a person who may not understand that his or her assets are being taken is also a form of elder abuse.

Even if an elderly family member cannot or will not tell loved ones that he or she is being abused, there are warning signs that should alert you to possible abuse or neglect, particularly if you note more than one. These include:

-- Physical injuries such as bruises, abrasions, broken bones, burns and pressure marks-- Signs of neglect, including bedsores, unexplained weight loss, poor hygiene or indications that medications are not being given-- Arguments or tense relationships with caregivers

-- Money or property disappearing-- Unexplained changes in mood such as depression or withdrawal

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities as well as individual caregivers and medical professionals can be held criminally as well as civilly liable for abuse, neglect and wrongful death. If you believe that a loved one has suffered or is suffering at the hands of the people in whom you've placed your trust, it's essential to report the situation to the proper authorities and take steps to ensure your loved one's safety. It's also advisable to seek legal guidance to help determine how you can hold the facility and/or employees liable for their actions.

Source: Administration for Community Living, "What is Elder Abuse?" accessed Feb. 23, 2015

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