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When It Is Time to Contact an Elder Law Lawyer

April 2, 2018

It is difficult to watch your loved ones get older and less independent. Sometimes older relatives, such as parents or aunts and uncles, need more care than you can provide every day, so it is time to either move your loved one to a nursing home, hire an aid, or seek help from other friends or family members. Because you cannot be with your disabled loved one as much, or it has become more difficult for your loved one to communicate, it is natural to worry about their care when you are not there.

The National Center on Elder Abuse states that 3-5% of the elderly in the U.S. are victims of abuse. Pennsylvania Department of Human Services defines abuse as an act causing harm to an individual over the age of 60. In this article, we are going to cover the warning signs of when it is necessary to contact an elder law attorney in order to ensure your loved one is safe.


There are five areas where the elderly are most vulnerable, these include physical abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and financial exploitation. For each area, there are common signs to look for in order to determine if abuse or harm is taking place.

  • Physical Abuse

    • Signs to look for include frequent broken bones, fractures, bruises, burns, pressure marks, marks on the body in odd locations, taking your loved one to multiple medical locations for treatment, and not allowing you to be alone with your loved one.

    • Typically your loved one will not know how the injury happened or strange excuses or inconsistent explanations are made by your loved one or the caretaker.

  • Neglect

    • Common signs of neglect include soiled linens, soiled diapers, dirty bedpans, bed sores, sudden weight loss, messy living environment, and lack of basic personal items such as glasses, cane, medications, etc.

    • This often occurs unintentionally from an overworked or overburdened caregiver that just has lack of time, motivation, resources, or experience.

  • Emotional Abuse

    • Common signs that your loved one is being emotionally or verbally abused include your loved one withdrawing or showing increased signs of depression, sudden strange behavior such as biting nails, chewing hair, rocking, fear or nervous behavior that increases around the caregiver, tense relationship between your loved one and caregiver, caregiver speaking harshly or snapping at your loved one, and isolation of your loved one created by the caregiver.

    • This is one of the most difficult areas to spot, and the one area where using your “gut” is going to be most important. If you sense something just isn’t right, or your loved one is not acting like themselves and has become depressed or apathetic, listen to what your common sense is telling you and contact an elder law attorney right away.

  • Sexual Abuse

    • Common signs include bruises around the vaginal/pelvic region, breasts & rectum, depressed or withdrawn behavior, difficulty walking or standing, blood tests reveal STD, and flirtation/touchiness by the caregiver.

    • These signs are more difficult to detect, however regular doctors visits and blood tests will protect your loved one.

  • Financial Exploitation

    • Signs that your loved one might be taken advantage of financially include bills going unpaid, unexplained disappearance of large sums of money, caregiver handling money for purchases that don’t take place, purchases that are not typical of your loved one, increased credit card use, more withdrawals of cash, and adding the caregiver to bank accounts or credit card accounts.

    • This is unfortunately very common in elderly patients. Often times cognitive ability affects the elderly from understanding what is going on, or the elderly patient begins to view the caregiver as a “child” symbol or part of the family. Romantic relationships also are used on elderly patients in order to gain access to financials.

If you suspect any of the above is occurring, but you are not quite sure, contacting an elder law attorney can help put your mind at ease or help you provide the care your loved one deserves. An elder law attorney is more experienced in detecting potential abuse or neglect; discussing your concerns can only help your loved one and ensure proper care is taking place. In the last years of their life, you want to make sure your loved one is safe and cared for.

Contact us here to schedule a consultation with Kim A. Bodnar, Attorney at Law in our Pittsburgh office.

NOTE: This is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.