Elder abuse in nursing homes, home aid agencies, and hospitals are more common than you might realize, and it can include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, as well as neglect and financial exploitation.
According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 6 people over age 60 were victims of abuse during one recent year.
Fortunately, New Jersey law provides specific protections for older adults to protect them from abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. If you suspect that your loved one is being mistreated, you should know how to identify the signs of abuse and should be aware of their rights and your rights as a family member.
You should also know that legal help is available for victims of elder abuse in New Jersey. Contact the elder abuse attorneys at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon now for a free consultation about your legal options.
Types of Elder Abuse Covered Under New Jersey Law
The following types of abuse are illegal under New Jersey’s Adult Protective Services Act found in N.J.S.A. 52:27D-406 to 426:
- Physical abuse
- The exploitation of financial resources
- Emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse
Each county in New Jersey has an Adult Protective Services (APS) program to help investigate reports of abuse of vulnerable individuals.
Elder Law & Elder Abuse in New Jersey
The Adult Protective Services Act became law in New Jersey in 1994. It was amended in 2010 to require that law enforcement and many types of health care professionals report any suspected abuse of vulnerable individuals to the county APS office.
This law does not apply to individuals who live in an institutional facility, such as a nursing home. There is a separate law, the Mandatory Adult Abuse and Exploitation Reporting Law found in N.J.S.A. 52:27G that applies to adults over age 60 who live in an institutional facility.
Many families choose to care for their elderly relatives in their own home or that of the elderly individual. While this has many benefits to both the individual as well as the caregiver, it also creates some risk factors for abuse.
Being a caregiver is very stressful, and as the elder’s condition worsens, the caregiver may struggle with their own mental health, leading them to begin neglecting care duties or start reacting to the elder angrily or with physical force.
Since it is often a close family member who is the abuser, friends, and neighbors may assume that the elderly individual is well cared for. Often, abusive caregivers isolate the elderly person they care for so that no one discovers the abuse that is occurring. If the elder realizes that they are being abused, they may be unwilling to report it for fear of retaliation or getting their family member in trouble.
Fortunately, there are several ways to prevent elder abuse:
- Caregivers should seek support from other family members, friends, or support groups to prevent burnout.
- Caregivers should take care of themselves by reducing stress and receiving treatment for conditions such as depression and substance abuse if applicable.
- Friends or other relatives should visit or call the elder often to show their support.
- With the elder’s permission, check their financial records for evidence of unauthorized transactions or other suspicious activity.
If you suspect that elder abuse is occurring, it may be too late to totally prevent it. However, by reporting it to the authorities, you can prevent it from getting worse.
What Are the Signs of Elder Abuse?
There are many signs to look out for that may indicate an elderly person is being abused. These could include:
- Signs of physical abuse
- Bruises, broken bones
- Broken eyeglasses
- Rope marks on wrists, ankles, arms, or legs
- A caregiver refusing to let you visit or remaining present at all times when you visit
- Signs of emotional abuse –
- Dementia-like behavior, such as rocking or mumbling
- Demeaning or threatening caregiver behavior
- Changes in personality
- Signs of neglect –
- Bed sores
- Untreated wounds or injuries
- The smell of urine or feces
- Signs of sexual abuse –
- Blood in underwear or around genitals or anus
- Bruising near breasts or genitals
- Signs of financial exploitation –
- Unusual purchases
- Sudden changes to a will or power of attorney
- Large withdrawals from elder’s bank account
If you notice any of these signs in an elderly individual and you believe they are being abused, don’t hesitate to report it so they can get the help they need as soon as possible.
What Do You Do If You Suspect Elder Abuse in New Jersey?
If you are being abused, or you suspect that an elderly person you know is being abused or neglected, it is important to seek help immediately. You can start by contacting the Adult Protective Services office nearest you. A social worker will typically investigate your report within 72 hours.
Reporting a case of abuse or neglect can be a touchy situation, especially if the abuser is a close friend or family member. The abuser will likely try to make excuses or cover up evidence. While the social worker will do everything they can to protect the welfare of the elderly individual, the situation may not be resolved smoothly or quickly. In this case, working an experienced attorney can help further protect the rights of your loved one.
What Can an Elder Abuse Attorney Do?
Since there are many types of elder abuse, each case will look a little different. You may be able to file a civil action to seek compensation for physical injuries, emotional trauma, and financial losses. In addition, you may also choose to press criminal charges against the abuser.
The experienced nursing home abuse attorneys at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon will review your case and help you decide on the best course of action to pursue compensation to cover the expenses of abuse and hold the abuser responsible for their actions.
Our lawyers understand that discovering a loved one has been abused is heartbreaking, and we are committed to using every resource available to protect their rights. We have helped thousands of individuals and families around New York and New Jersey receive compensation for their injuries and losses.
Our team of dedicated and compassionate lawyers will listen to the details of your case and then connect you with a skilled elder abuse attorney to meet your needs. Please contact us today or start an online chat to schedule a free consultation.
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