ElderAbuse FAQ's

Frequently Asked Questions About Elder Abuse

Who can make an elder abuse referral?

Any person who is aware of facts or circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to suspect that physical or emotional abuse, material abuse or neglect has occurred may report to Milwaukee County's Aging Resource Center. No person may be held civilly or criminally liable or be found guilty of unprofessional conduct for reporting in good faith under this section of Wisconsin Law.

What is an elder abuse investigation?

Social workers and nurses from the Resource Center's elder abuse investigation unit investigate reports of abuse and neglect to determine if the elder person or any other person involved in the situation is in need of services. They also help coordinate resources and services, make linkages for the elder with other agencies and can offer temporary emergency assistance.

Elder abuse investigations begin within 24 hours of the referral, excluding weekends and holidays. Investigations of material abuse begin within 5 days of the referral.

What happens during an elder abuse investigation?

The scope of the investigation may include the following:

  • A visit to the elder person's residence.
  • Observation of the elder person.
  • An interview with the elder person (to the extent possible, this interview is private).
  • An interview with any person who takes care of the elder person.
  • A review of treatment and health care records. 

A competent older adult has the right to refuse an elder abuse investigation and the right to refuse services.

The Milwaukee County Department on Aging cannot investigate allegations regarding elders who reside in community based residential facilities or nursing homes, or who receive services from a home health agency licensed by the state under s50.49.

Complaints against nursing homes, community based residential facilities or home health agencies licensed should be reported to the State Department of Health and Family Services.

Click here for a link to Nursing Home abuse reporting information

What are some physical signs of abuse or neglect?

  • Injury that has not been cared for properly.
  • Injuries that are not compatible with history.
  • Frequent use of the emergency room and/or hospital or changing health care providers frequently.
  • Evidence of inadequate or inappropriate administration of medication.
  • Lack of necessary equipment such as walkers, canes, bedside commode.
  • Lack of necessities such as heat, food, water.
  • Unsafe conditions in the home.
  • Poor skin hygiene.
  • Soiled clothing or bed.
  • Bruises, welts, discolorations. cuts, laceration, puncture wounds, burns.
  • Dehydration and/or malnourishment without illness related cause.
  • Loss of weight without illness related cause

What are some indicators of financial abuse?

  • Unusual activity in bank accounts.
  • Power of attorney given when person is unable to understand the financial situation, and is unable to give a valid power of attorney.
  • Refusal by agent for power of attorney to spend money on the care of the elder.
  • A recent will or change in a will when person is clearly incapable of drafting a will.
  • Checks and other documents signed when the older person cannot write.
  • Personal belongings of value, such as art, silverware and jewelry are missing.
  • Promises of lifelong care in exchange for deeding of all property/bank accounts to caregiver.
  • Signatures on checks or other documents that do not resemble the person's signature.
  • Withdrawals from automatic teller machines when the person cannot walk or get to the bank on their own.
  • Checks bouncing.
  • Checks being written for "cash" for large amounts of money.
  • Regular rent or utility payments cease abruptly.
  • Sudden increases in debt.
  • Bank statements and canceled checks are no longer sent to the elder's home.
  • Recent change in the title of a house when the elder is unable to understand the transaction.

What are signs that a person may be an abuser?

  • An elder person may not be allowed to speak for him or herself or to others without the presence of the suspected abuser.
  • Obvious absence of assistance, attitudes of indifference or anger toward the dependent person.
    Family member or caregiver "blames" the elder person (e.g. accusation that incontinence is a deliberate act).
  • Aggressive behavior towards the elder
  • Previous history of abuse to others.
  • Withholding of security affection.
  • Problems with alcohol or drugs.
  • Flirtation, coyness, touchiness (possible inappropriate sexual relationship).
  • Social isolation of family or isolation or restriction of activity of the older adult within the family unit.
  • Conflicting accounts of incidents by persons involved (family, friends/others, victim) 
  • Unwillingness or reluctance to comply with service providers in planning for care.

How can an older persons behavior give clues to abuse or neglect?

The behaviors listed below do not in themselves, indicate abuse or neglect. However they may be clues to ask more questions and look beyond the obvious.

Agitation. Anxiety. Withdrawal. Confusion or disorientation. Ambivalence. Fear. Depression. Anger. Isolation. Resignation. Hesitation to speak openly. Non-responsiveness. Contradictory statements.

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