The World Health Organization (WHO) 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, such as:

  • Physical abuse where the abused person may have burns, slight swelling from being squeezed, discoloration of the skin from being grabbed or hit, and bruises.
  • Emotional abuse, where the abused person displays a noticeable change in personality or attitude and may be withdrawn.
  • Sexual abuse is also prevalent in later life, especially against women. Visible signs are bruises around the genital area and breasts, also in some cases, Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
  • Neglect is another form of abuse in later life. Poor hygiene, uncut, dirty nails, dirty bed linen, dirty, unkempt hair are some signs that one has been neglected.
  • Abuse in later life occurs when one partner begins to control the other to get what (s)he desires from the relationship. This abuse is usually from a family member, caregiver, or spouse.

The control can be physical or emotional.

The abuse can happen to anyone, male or female, ethnic and racial groups and it doesn’t matter what your socio-economic background is, nor whether you are married or unmarried. That said, elder abuse is typically against women who endure in silence for a myriad of reasons such as:

  • They are embarrassed about the abuse
  • They don’t want to leave the home they have had for a long time.
  • They still love the abuser
  • Loneliness
  • They think they will destroy their family if the abuse is reported
  • Monetary issues
  • They do not want to get their family member in trouble even though he is the abuser
  • Religious and cultural beliefs

State Laws

There are no Federal laws regarding elder abuse and state laws vary from state to state. The good news is that Washington State protects elders under 74.34 RCW

Where to Go for Help

If it is an emergency, call 911. Otherwise, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services can help you out.

You can also report abuse online.

Chad Foster is a trusted family law and divorce lawyer serving Snohomish and King counties with an office in Bothell. Contact us today to discuss your legal issue.

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