What If I Suspect a Loved One Is a Victim of Elder Abuse?

When you choose a nursing home or community-based residential facility (CBRF) to care for an aging parent or family member, you expect they’ll be safe and happy there.

Unfortunately, nursing home abuse and elder abuse in other care facilities occur nationwide. There were more than 7,300 reports of elder abuse, financial exploitation, and neglect in Wisconsin in 2017.

If you suspect your loved one is a victim of elder abuse in a Wisconsin nursing home, follow the steps below, and call Boller & Vaughan at 608-268-0268 for a free consultation.

Make sure nursing homes and facilities are safe

When searching for a new nursing home or CBRF to care for your loved one, do your best to check that the facility is safe.

While touring a care center, take note of:

  • Cleanliness and overall safety. Are there trip and fall hazards? Are windows and entryways secured?
  • The residents. Do they look happy, comfortable, and well cared for? Do they have control over the activities they do, what they wear, or what they eat?
  • The number of staff present. Most nursing homes lack adequate staff, and some exaggerate their reported numbers.
  • The food served. Is the dining room clean and attractive? What does the food look like?
  • Any strong or suspicious odors. Be wary of both good and bad smells, which can indicate problems.
  • Interaction between staff or residents. Do they respect each other? Do staff respond quickly and know each resident’s name?

Ask questions during your visit. If possible, visit again without calling ahead to see what the facility is like on a regular day. If you notice any red flags while touring a facility, they could be signs that residents are neglected or abused.

Investigate suspected elder abuse

Neglect, emotional or psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and financial exploitation are some of the most common forms of elder abuse.

It can be difficult for victims to speak to someone about being abused; they may be afraid or even threatened by their abuser. If you notice any signs of abuse, you must take action to protect your loved one.

First, talk to your loved one about the situation privately. Stay calm and rational; getting upset may only upset your loved one more. Take notes or record what they say.

Then, talk to the facility staff and management. Keep an open mind and listen to them. What looks like signs of elder abuse may not be. If the staff, management, and administrator are transparent and willing to rectify the situation immediately, that’s a good sign. If they’re not, you may need to take further action.

After speaking with facility staff, take detailed notes of the suspected elder abuse. Write down names and job positions of staff members you interview.

Take pictures within reason; be mindful of other residents and their privacy. If the facility management doesn’t seem to be rectifying the situation in a timely manner, it may be time to get help from others.

Call law enforcement and an elder adult protection agency

If you believe your loved one is in immediate danger, call 911 or local law enforcement right away. Their safety is the top priority. You may be asked to file a complaint. If your loved one or other residents at the facility may be harmed, the police may intervene.

Then, call the elder adult protection agency in your state to report the suspected elder abuse. In Wisconsin, you can make an anonymous report to the Wisconsin Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services also oversees each county’s elder abuse agency. Find and contact your county’s Elder Adults At-Risk Help Line to make a report.

The elder abuse agency will ask you for information such as:

  • The name and address of the adult at risk
  • Their age
  • The type of abuse
  • The name and relationship of the abuser
  • Caregiver information
  • Anything else you think is important

They may also ask for your name and address, but you are not required to disclose that information. Your identity is kept confidential by law.

Contact an elder abuse attorney in Wisconsin

Finally, it’s best to speak to a lawyer experienced in elder abuse cases. An elder abuse attorney can ensure that your loved one and others are protected from further elder abuse. 

An attorney can also help you file a claim to seek compensation. Filing claims correctly can be a lengthy and complex process, and an elder abuse lawyer will help you understand your options.

The Madison attorneys at Boller & Vaughan are dedicated to fighting for the rights of elder abuse victims in Wisconsin.

If you suspect your loved one is suffering from elder abuse, call 608-268-0268 for a free consultation. For more news resources on elder abuse in Wisconsin, like and follow the Boller & Vaughan Facebook page.


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