Last year, there were 1,377 reported cases of elder abuse in Rhode Island—a 10 percent increase over 2016 and a 47 percent increase over five years ago.
In addition, there were 1,362 reported cases of elder self-neglect—a nearly 15 percent increase over the previous year.
And, according to information provided by the R.I. Division of Elderly Affairs in their 2017 annual report on elder abuse, the numbers could actually be much worse as the National Academy of Sciences estimates that only about one in 14 abuse cases are even reported. Taking that into account, there could have been as many as 19,000 such cases in Rhode Island last year alone.
Elder abuse is defined as a single or repeated act—or inaction—that causes harm or distress to an older person within a relationship that has an expectation of trust.
Types of abuse
- Physical—any form of unwanted contact that is meant to harm the elder, including slapping, shoving and beating.
- Psychological—using tactics such as intimidation, the silent treatment or threats to exert control over or take advantage of the elder.
- Financial—misusing the elder’s money for personal gain, ranging from stealing small amounts of cash to embezzling funds.
- Neglect—not meeting the elder’s physical, social or emotional needs.
Self-Neglect can also put a senior at serious risk for illness or injury. When seniors are unable to care for themselves because they are living with physical or mental challenges, they may not be able to maintain:
- Adequate personal hygiene
- Medication management
- Proper nutrition
- Clean living spaces
- Financial management—including paying their utility bills
How to protect your loved ones
- Thoroughly research hired caregivers, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Getting recommendations from friends can help verify a professional’s reputation. When touring a possible residency, look for signs that the facility provides quality care—it should be clean and pleasant smelling, have a comfortable temperature and serve food that appears appetizing. Staff should respond quickly to calls for assistance, should be warm and should be engaging with residents.
- Regularly check in with and visit your loved one to watch for signs of abuse—changes in behavior, unexplained injuries, medication and financial mismanagement, unclean living spaces, lack of hygiene, etc.
- Report suspected abuse to the R.I. Division of Elderly Affairs Adult Protective Services Unit at 401-462-0555. All report records are confidential.
- In cases of crisis or violence, immediately call law enforcement.