Oregon elder abuse information

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Oregon Elder Abuse

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What is meant by the term elder abuse?

Elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Elder abuse can range from financial exploitation of an elderly person to emotional bullying, or from physical abuse to neglect and abandonment.  As people age, they often become more physically and mentally frail, and thus more susceptible to all kinds of abuse. Their physical health may be declining, and they may not be able to think or remember things as clearly as they did when they were younger. These factors combined with an elderly person’s dependence on others can create stressful situations that lead to abusive behavior as well as opportunities for unscrupulous people to prey on the elderly.  Most commonly, elder abuse is committed by family members or caregivers in long-term institutional settings.

What are some common form of elder abuse?

Physical abuse.  Physical abuse is inflicting, or threatening to inflict, physical pain or injury on a vulnerable elder, including depriving them of a basic need.  It can involve the use of force against an elderly person that results in physical pain, injury, or impairment.  Such abuse includes not only physical assaults such as striking but the inappropriate use of drugs, restraints, or confinement.  Such abuse is often evidenced by broken bones or bruising from improper assistance with lifting or transferring the elder. 

Emotional or psychological abuse This form of abuse can be both verbal and nonverbal, occurring when people speak to or treat elderly persons in ways that cause emotional pain, distress, or anguish.  Verbal forms of emotional elder abuse include:

  • intimidation through yelling
  • threats
  • humiliation and ridicule
  • habitual blaming

Nonverbal psychological elder abuse can take the form of

  • ignoring the elderly person
  • isolating an elder from friends or activities
  • threatening or menacing the elderly person

Sexual abuse.  Sexual elder abuse is any nonconsensual sexual contact with an elderly person.   Such contact can involve physical sex acts, but activities such as forcing the person to watch sex acts or pornographic material, or forcing the elder to undress are also considered sexual elder abuse. A sexual act would be nonconsensual if it is determined that the elder lacks the mental capacity necessary to give meaningful consent.

Neglect or abandonment by caregivers.  Elder neglect, failure to fulfill a caretaking obligation to provide basics like food, shelter, medical care and protection, is the most common form of elder abuse and constitutes more than half of all reported cases. It can be active (intentional) or passive (negligent or unintentional), based on factors such as ignorance or denial that an elderly charge needs as much care as he or she does. Abandonment is the desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.

Financial exploitation.  This form of abuse involves unauthorized use of an elderly person’s funds or property, either by a caregiver or an outside scam artist, such as:

  • stealing cash, income checks, or household goods;
  • forging the elder’s signature;
  • misuse of an elder’s personal checks, credit cards, or accounts;
  • engaging in identity theft;
  • inducing an elder to sign a legal document or execute a gift by using undue influence or when the elder lacks mental capacity.

In addition, outside scams that target elders are considered elder abuse.  These include:

  • Announcements of a “prize” that the elderly person has won but must pay money to claim, such as “international lotteries;”
  • Phony charities;
  • Investment fraud.

Healthcare fraud and abuse.  Elder abuse may also be carried out by doctors, nurses and other healthcare personnel in the form of:  

  • Charging for medical services that are not provided;
  • Overcharging or double-billing for medical services;
  • Overmedicating;
  • Under-medicating;
  • Recommending fraudulent remedies for illnesses or other medical conditions;
  • Medicaid fraud.

What are some factors that indicate that my elderly relative is at high risk for being abused?

Many professional and nonprofessional caregivers — spouses, adult children, other relatives and friends provide good quality care to elders and find it to be a rewarding and satisfying experience.  But oftentimes, the responsibilities and demands of care giving, which escalate as the elder’s condition deteriorates, can be very stressful and exhausting.  The stress of elder care can lead to mental and physical health problems that make caregivers impatient and unable to keep from lashing out against the elders in their care.

Among caregivers, risk factors that can lead to elder abuse include:

  • inability to cope with stress
  • depression
  • lack of support from other potential caregivers (or other family members)
  • the caregiver’s perception that taking care of the elder is burdensome and without psychological reward
  • substance abuse
  •  lack of training
  •  overwhelmed by too many responsibilities
  • personality not suited to care giving
  • poor working conditions.

What types of persons are at greatest risk for abuse?

There are a number of factors or characteristics of the elderly person that may indicate he or she is at a greater risk for abuse:

  • The intensity of an elderly person’s illness or dementia;
  • Social isolation-- the elder and caregiver spend the majority of their time alone together or live together;
  • If the elderly person was as an abusive parent or spouse at an earlier time;
  • A history of domestic violence in the home;
  • The elder’s own tendency toward verbal or physical aggression.

What are common signs that my elderly relative has been abused?

While the presence of one of these signs does not necessarily mean that abuse has been committed, often these symptoms will appear in groups.  Some common signs are: 

  • Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, scrapes, abrasions, and burns;

  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression;

  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area from sexual abuse;

  • Sudden changes in the financial situation;

  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss;

  • Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control;

  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person.

I think my mother / father was abused some time ago.  How long do I have to file my claim?

In Oregon, there is a two-year statute of limitations for many civil actions, so any lawsuit must generally be filed within two years of when the abuse occurred.  If the abuse was done by a state agency, you may have just six months to bring a claim.  Keep in mind that for the sake of constructing a case and preserving accurate testimony and evidence, you should contact an attorney as soon as you suspect elder abuse has occurred. 

What if my elderly relative is senile and would not be able to testify regarding what has happened?  How would I be able to prove the case?

Your attorney may want to have the elder evaluated by a mental health professional to determine if he or she would lack capacity to testify in court.   Your attorney may be able to construct a case based on other forms of evidence, such as the testimony of other parties or witnesses, and physical evidence.  For this reason, it is important to document events as soon as they occur. 

Are there also criminal penalties for elder abuse?

Increasingly, across the country, law enforcement officers and prosecutors are trained on elder abuse and ways to use criminal and civil laws to bring abusers to justice.  Many states have increased penalties for those who victimize older adults, including Oregon.  Your attorney can help explain these laws to you.  The first step in bringing criminal charges is to contact the police so that a report is filed.   

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Websites, including this one, provide general Oregon elder abuse information but do not provide legal advice or create an attorney / client relationship.  General information cannot replace legal advice specific to your case, problem, or situation.  Consult qualified Oregon elder abuse attorneys for advice about any specific potential lawsuit or claim that you have.  Oregon lawyers are governed by the Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct.  This website may be considered an advertisement for services under the Rules.  Information contained in this website is believed to be accurate but is not warranted or guaranteed in any way.  No lawyer associated with this website is specialized or certified in any way. 


Oregon elder abuse lawyers provide legal assistance to the communities of:  Portland, Gresham, Medford, Salem, Eugene, and Roseburg.


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