Every year millions of adults fall victim to some form of elder abuse. It is estimated that the number of cases reported, equals only a fraction of the actual cases of elder abuse that take place. In Maricopa County, Arizona Adult Protective Services takes on more than 10,000 cases of elder abuse per year. Elder abuse is rarely reported for a variety of reasons, seniors may be afraid to report the abuse, they may feel guilty or isolated, and not know where to make a report, they may be in denial of the situation or they may not be able to make a report due to a physical or mental ailment or impairment. For these reasons, it is important for caregivers and other family members to know the signs of elder abuse.
It is difficult to tell when abuse is occurring. Arizona Revised Statute §13-3623 sets forth the definition of abuse. Vulnerable adults in this case are described as adults over 18 who cannot protect themselves from abuse because of a “mental or physical impairment.” This statute also defines the penalties, and the severity of the punishment, for those who commit abuse. Abuse can take many forms. There could be physical abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, or neglect. All of these different forms show different warning signs that abuse may be occurring. One important step in tracking abuse is to become familiar with warning signs of the types of abuse and share this information with friends, relatives, and neighbors of the senior so more people will be able to offer assistance in spotting the warning signs of abuse.
Arizona Revised Statutes Title 46, Chapter 4 are the main statutes that govern Elder Abuse. These statutes govern the Adult Protective Serves agency. This agency works with law enforcement and organizations around the state to handle reports of alleged elder abuse. Arizona Revised Statute § 46-454, covers the duty of to report instances of elder abuse witnessed by certain professionals. While there is no duty for the average person, it is critical that even people who aren’t required by law to make reports still participate in identifying potential abuse.
Most reports are made to Adult Protective Services by a telephone hotline. Callers are generally asked a series of questions including the type of abuse they suspect, the warning signs they have observed, as well as identifying information such as age, address, etc. of both the victim and the alleged perpetrator. Although a reporter can remain anonymous, there are no penalties for good faith reporting cases of abuse, neglect or exploitation that are later found to be unsubstantiated.
Elder abuse, neglect and exploitation are a constant and growing problem in Arizona due, in part, to the high number of retirees attracted to our State. Whether it is abuse by a healthcare professional, a caretaker or a family member of the senior reporting the signs of abuse is paramount in combating this problem. The information above should serve as an introductory guide on how to spot signs of this problem that is of great concern to our entire community. Although identifying elder abuse is difficult and intimidating, there are methods available to report and help stop this abuse from continuing.
If you believe that someone you know is a victim of elder abuse, you should report it if necessary and call a lawyer to discuss what you can do to help. Platt & Westby has offices in Phoenix, Arrowhead, Litchfield Park, Scottsdale and Gilbert Arizona, contact our office by calling 602-277-4441 or www.plattwestby.com for a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.