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Elder Abuse

Legal Disclaimer: The following is basic legal information, provided as a public service by Wyoming’s lawyers. The information provided is not a substitute for speaking to an attorney. Only an attorney can give you legal advice regarding your specific situation. Click here for help finding a lawyer.

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse is the intentional or negligent acts of a caregiver or “trusted” individual that causes or potentially causes harm to a vulnerable elder. Most common categories of abuse are:

  • Neglect
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial abuse and exploitation
  • Emotional or psychological abuse and neglect (including verbal abuse and threats)
  • Abandonment

According to the available data, neglect is the most common form of elder abuse. For more information on these types of abuse, visit Help Guide, a non-profit resource dedicated to educating individuals on elder abuse.

Who is at risk of elder abuse?

Elder abuse can happen to anyone. Elder abuse affects seniors across all socio-economic groups, cultures, and races. Elder abuse can occur anywhere:

  • In a person’s own home;
  • In nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other institutional settings;
  • In hospitals.

Based on available information, women and “older” elders (80 years old and older) are more likely to be victimized, and mistreatment is most often perpetrated by the victim’s own family members.

Some common risk factors:

  • The victim has dementia;
  • The perpetrator and/or the victim has mental health or substance abuse issues;
  • Social isolation;
  • Poor physical health, which increases vulnerability and thereby may increase risk.

For more information, visit the National Center on Elder Abuse.

How common is elder abuse?

It is unknown how many elders are affected by abuse. About 1 in 10 elders experience some type of abuse or neglect every year. The 2004 Survey of State Adult Protective Services (APS): Abuse of Adults 60 years of Age and Older, suggests that approximately 381,430 reports of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation were filed with APS across the United States in 2003.

Research also suggests that elder abuse is significantly under-identified and under-reported. It is believed that as few as 1 in 14 case come to the attention of authorities.

See Wyoming Elder Abuse Reporting or the Albany County SAFE Project for more information.

Why is elder abuse under-reported?

Many victims are reluctant to report because they are afraid that their abuser will get in trouble or they feel ashamed and embarrassed especially if the abuser is a family member. Elders also may feel as though they are to blame for the abuse or may fear that the abuse will get worse if they report. Additionally, elders may worry that they will be forced to live in a nursing home or be in denial that abuse is occurring.

How do I spot elder abuse?

If you have loved ones experiencing elder abuse, you can't always rely on them to tell you. It is important to pay attention and be aware whenever you spend time with them. Click here for answers to Frequently Asked Questions and some tips to help you spot elder abuse.

Who is required to report elder abuse?

Everyone. All citizens have a responsibility to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Wyoming state law, W.S. 35-20-103, mandates that any person who suspects elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation is required by law to report it to the authorities. Click here for more information on mandatory reporting.

What should I do if I suspect elder abuse?

Report your concerns. Most cases of elder abuse go undetected. Additionally, don’t assume that the abuse has already been reported. You should report any and all suspected abuse in order to best protect the elder population. Keep in mind that by reporting potential abuse you are not required to prove that abuse is occurring, you are simply alerting authorities of the situation so that an investigation can be done.

Who should I contact if I suspect abuse?

Report elder abuse to your local authorities, the Wyoming Department of Family Services, or contact the following hotlines:

  • For suspected elder mistreatment in the home call 1-800-475-3659 or (307) 777-3602.
  • For suspected abuse in healthcare facilities call (307) 777-7123.
  • For suspected abuse in long-term care facilities (nursing homes) call (307) 322-5553.
  • Wyoming Adult Protective Services, or
  • Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116

How can I protect myself form abuse, neglect, and exploitation?

You should have a plan for your future. Talk with family members, friends, and professionals that you trust to make the plan for your future. The National Center on Elder Abuse also suggests doing the following:

  • Having your income (retirement, Social Security, disability) directly deposited into your checking account
  • Utilizing a daily money manager
  • Getting your estate plan in place by contacting a lawyer to help you create the following as appropriate:Learning about your options if you have to go to a long term care facility
    • Living will
    • Revocable trust
    • Durable power of attorney for health care or asset management
  • Contacting someone you trust before making a large purchase or investment
  • Using caution if you are offered a “prize” “loan” “investment” that sounds too good to be true
  • Using caution with your personal information (social security card, credit card)
  • Tearing or shredding your credit card receipts, bank statements, and financial records before throwing them away
  • Ensuring that people you hire for personal assistance services have been property screened with criminal background checks
  • Getting on the National Do Not Call Registry to reduce marketing calls by calling 1-888-382-1222
  • Staying in touch with other regularly as isolation can make you vulnerable
  • Creating a buddy system with other elders

You should also be cautious and learn about the types of elder abuse and neglect and the associated warning signs. Go to the National Center on Elder Abuse to learn more.

What should I do if I am a victim of elder abuse?

You should report the abuse to the police through 911 if possible. Otherwise tell someone you can trust about the abuse so that an investigation can proceed. You can also contact Adult Protective Services online or by phone at (307) 777-3602.

Who can I turn to for help with elder abuse in Wyoming?

What are the laws regarding elder abuse in Wyoming?

Elder abuse in Wyoming is defined and explained in W.S. 35-20-101 to 35-20-116.

The Long Term Care Ombudsman Act: W.S. 9-2-1301 to 9-2-1309.

What are things that can be done to prevent elder abuse?

Basic things can be done to help prevent elder abuse. One of the main things that can be done is to increase public awareness of elder abuse. Expansion of services for victims would also be helpful in combating elder abuse. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, 11 things can be done individually to help prevent elder abuse. Those include:

  • Knowing the signs of elder abuse
  • Call or visit elders to see how they are doing
  • Give breaks to caregivers
  • Ask your bank to train tellers on elder financial abuse
  • Ask your doctor to speak with seniors about family violence
  • Contact local adult protective services to learn how to support their work helping at-risk elders with disabilities
  • Organize a “respect your elders” essay or poster contest at your child’s school
  • Ask your religious leader to give a talk about elder abuse
  • Volunteer to be a friendly visitor to a nursing home
  • Send a letter to your local media suggesting they cover World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
  • Dedicate an event to elder mistreatment awareness