Fighting the Heartbreak of Elder Abuse in Texas

Abuse of the elderly and disabled can take many forms: financial, mental, physical and sexual. Maltreatment may be through neglect (including abandonment), negligence or intentional acts. Elder abuse happens across the economic spectrum, but poverty can be a contributing factor. By Glenn W. Cunningham - Law Offices of Glenn W Cunningham September 29, 2011

Texas Governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry proclaimed May 2011 to be Elder Abuse Protection Month in Texas. In his proclamation he said that all Texans have the "duty to protect people of all ages from abuse, neglect and exploitation," and to report suspicions of elder maltreatment to the authorities.

The governor revealed that Texas has 2.5 million seniors and that fiscal year 2010 saw 56,000 abuse cases in that population.

The National Center on Elder Abuse found in a major study that only about one in six such incidents are reported to the proper authorities, so the majority of elders suffer in silence without investigation. Using that underreporting estimate, in 2010 Texas would have been home to more like 336,000 incidents.

Abuse of the elderly and disabled can take many forms: financial, mental, physical and sexual. Maltreatment may be through neglect (including abandonment), negligence or intentional acts. Elder abuse happens across the economic spectrum, but poverty can be a contributing factor.

Caregivers in both institutional and private settings may be overworked, understaffed, short on resources or not adequately trained. In these conditions, abuse can grow out of ignorance or frustration, with the probability increasing with fatigue. Even more frightening, a few people commit abusive acts deliberately and with premeditation.

According to a May 2011 article in The Madisonville Meteor, a representative of the Adult Protective Services division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said that adult children are the most common elder abusers, followed by spouses and then grandchildren.

If you suspect an elder is being abused, the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services lists on its websitethe appropriate hotlines to call for reporting, depending on the victim's residential situation. Of course, sometimes it may even be necessary to call emergency services at 9-1-1.

Beyond official reporting, consult with an experienced elder law attorney to learn what legal remedies may be available to redress the wrong done to your loved one or even to yourself if you are an exploited senior citizen. Your elderly friend or relative may be the victim of nursing home abuse or suffering in another type of assisted living facility. Sometimes abuse happens at the hands of a relative, even in an elder's own home. Legal options may vary depending on who is providing care and the type of abuse.

Be sure to act quickly; lawsuits and other legal remedies may have deadlines, and you want the abuse to stop and future perpetrators to be deterred.