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It’s natural to worry about a parent or other adult who’s getting on in years. Elders need special care to stay healthy and maintain the right level of independence for them.

They also become more likely than other adults to be victimized by abuse.

Abuse, neglect, and exploitation are the three categories of crimes against adults recognized by the State of Florida. These crimes target vulnerable adults like elders and people with cognitive disabilities. Anywhere from 1 to 2 million older Americans have been targeted.

Here’s something to remember: Only about 1 in 14 elder abuse incidents are ever reported.

That’s just over 7% – meaning the vast majority of victims suffer in silence.

It’s critical that adult children, other relatives, and friends do their parts to recognize the signs of crimes against elders. Adults can be targeted in a healthcare setting, but they are just as often endangered by caretakers who visit them at home.

Let’s take a quick look at the three categories of elder crime in Florida:

1. Abuse

Abuse is anything anyone does, or threatens to do, that harms an elder’s mental, physical, or emotional health. It also covers anything that’s likely to cause that harm, even if it’s only been threatened, or has happened but hasn’t caused any harm yet.

2. Neglect

Neglect is when someone trusted to take care of an elder fails to do his or her job, causing harm as a result. This can cause problems with elders’ physical or mental health, especially if they miss out on necessities like food, water, medication, or other healthcare.

3. Exploitation

Exploitation is something everyone is familiar with – in day to day life, it means being taken advantage of. Under the law, adult exploitation means that someone an elder trusts tries to use fraud or deception to obtain their money, possessions, or other assets.

When abuse or neglect are suspected, caretakers are often people of concern. Exploitation, on the other hand, is a little different. Exploiters are often strangers, such as scam artists who call an elder pretending to be the IRS, or Ponzi scheme operators who contact them by mail.

What to Do if You Suspect Elder Abuse Around St. Petersburg, Florida

Elders who’ve been targeted may be confused, disoriented, or weak, and may not always be able to tell you the details of the abuse. In some cases, elders may know something is wrong but feel embarrassed or ashamed that they need help – a common form of trauma for abuse victims.

If you notice any unexplained cuts, bruises, scratches, broken bones, sprains, burns, or sores, it’s crucial to follow up right away. Treat repeated “accidents” with suspicion. Signs of starvation, dehydration, unsanitary conditions, or lack of hygiene are other red flags.

Financial abuse is also a risk. This can be a touchy subject for adult children to raise, but it’s important to know. Misuse or loss of funds like Social Security or retirement benefits may mean someone else is using an elder’s money. Joint bank accounts are one way of doing this.

If you suspect any form of elder abuse, contact a trusted elder abuse and neglect attorney in St. Petersburg. An experienced legal team can advise you about your rights, including actions you can take to protect an elder relative.

That includes potentially removing him or her from a dangerous situation, taking action against a suspected abuser, or gathering paperwork and other evidence that may be valuable to you in a court of law. Don’t do it alone – following all laws is essential.

To find out more, contact us today.