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With the passage of time, Missourians will inevitably experience the increasing need to care for elderly loved ones. Some will care for their elderly relatives themselves; some will hire a person to come to the home; while others will need to place the elderly person in a facility so professional care can be given. It is an unfortunate reality, however, that elder abuse is growing more and more common. Knowing what steps to take when there is a belief that this is happening is critical.

In an effort to highlight the issue and find strategies to recognize and stop it, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was held in mid-June. Although most people who care for elderly people will do so with kindness and understanding, there will still be incidents of abuse. This comes about in a variety of ways, and it is important to recognize when it might be occurring.

The second most common group that abuses elderly people – after family members – are caregivers who are brought into the home. Often, these people are found through an agency, but that does not necessarily mean they will provide proper care and refrain from elder abuse. Financial, physical and sexual abuse can take place if family members do not pay strict attention to what is happening to their loved ones. For elderly people who are unable to communicate, have memory loss or are extremely vulnerable, it is even more vital to pay attention to how they are treated.

The third most frequent abusers of the elderly are professionals whose job it is to provide a proper standard of care. This happens in nursing homes where there are generally scheduled visiting hours and workers can feel safe in committing their acts without getting caught. Theft of property and money as well as the other levels of abuse can happen. Since these jobs can be difficult, some facilities will shun extensive oversight and background checks, so people who have a bad history might end up caring for an elderly loved one.

When there is a suspicion that nursing home neglect or abuse is taking place, a legal professional experienced in these cases can help to investigate and pursue compensation. Abuse can be psychological, financial and physical and cause an untold amount of damage and even death to the victim. People who are already feeling a certain amount of guilt for placing their loved one in a facility or leaving them with another person to provide care might be unable to spot acts of abuse.