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Elder Abuse Investigations

  • December 11, 2017
  • by Stephanie Irvine
  • Articles

Understanding Elder Abuse Investigations

Though there are many benefits for a growing elderly population with a longer life expectancy, there is also an increase in situations where seniors suffer abuse and neglect from those entrusted to care for them.

The World Health Organization defines elder abuse as "a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person."

The most blatant cases involve physical harm inflicted by a caretaker or relative, but the elderly are also frequently victimized financially.

What prompts investigations?

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, one out of every 10 senior citizens in the United States experiences some type of abuse, but fewer than 20 percent of those cases ever get reported. Regrettably, many indications of elder abuse are similar to the mental and physical deterioration of advancing age, but a client could become suspicious if they observe:

  • Changes in personality or behavior
  • Unexplained injuries or bruises
  • Conflicting stories between a caregiver and a patient how an injury occurred
  • Frequent arguments between caregivers and patients
  • Patients who appear malnourished, disheveled, in need of medication or overly affected by medication
  • Unexplained financial or property losses and changes in spending patterns
  • A caregiver remaining with a patient at all times - not allowing anyone to be alone with them

Methods of Investigation

Start with prevention.

Investigators seeking to grow their business may want to advertise background checks to assist those hiring caregivers or living facilities for loved ones. Verifying a caregiver’s certifications and interviewing past clients just might eliminate a problem before it starts.

Use technology.

It’s hard to think of a senior who doesn't have an alarm clock by the bed. Your knowledge of surveillance products and privacy laws can assist clients who want to set up a “granny cam.”

Covert or overt investigations.

Every individual case is different. You might document a case better if you remain as unobtrusive as possible but other times the awareness of an investigator can produce new information or changes in behavior that will help the client. Research the case, individuals involved, and type of abuse to determine what investigation style you should use.

Financial Investigation

Clients may also want to ensure a senior’s financial security. It is estimated one in five elderly people has been targeted by a scam. According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, only 1 in every 44 financial elder abuse cases is reported. Unfortunately, con artists try to work quickly and confuse their victims and hope the embarrassment may prevent them from telling others.

Whether a client suspects a stranger or a caregiver is abusing the senior financially or just has concerns their loved one can no longer make monetary decisions, investigators should focus on:

  • Money missing from investment and bank accounts. Is there any explanation where it went?
  • Charge account use. Has there been an uncharacteristic increase in the use of credit cards or are cash advances being taken out?
  • New authorizations. Who's able to use the funds and is everyone aware who's able to?
  • Unpaid bills and collection notices. Are the senior's resources being spent on other things?
  • Missing property. Are all valuables accounted for?
  • New purchases. Has the elder’s money paid for things they seem unlikely to use?

The Challenges of Elder Abuse Investigations

The elderly are more susceptible to falls and forgetfulness. There may be rational explanations for injuries and misplaced items. But as people age, they are less able to stand up to bullying or can be easily taken advantage of.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, a victim may be reluctant to report abuse from fear of retaliation, not have the mental ability to make a report or because they don’t want to get the abuser in trouble or worry who will care for them in the future.

A Need to Investigate

The elderly can be a great resource and deserve respect and affection. Taking steps to protect them not only spares society’s resources but can offer clients a peace of mind knowing that helping seniors now will help future seniors later.


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