Physical and sexual assault, fraud and theft are crimes. If you believe that there has been criminal abuse or neglect, contact the police. Dial 999 if there is an emergency involving physical or sexual abuse. Write down what happened, including details of anyone who was present. Keep any evidence and do not tamper with it or clean it.
What is abuse?
There are many different forms of abuse. Some, such as physical injuries, can be easy to spot. Others are much more difficult. Abuse could, for example, include failing to provide enough soap so that someone cannot keep themselves clean.
The charity Action on Elder Abuse defines 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".
The person you care about may not be able or willing to talk about any problems, perhaps because they cannot communicate or due to embarrassment or intimidation. Take time to look for signs of neglect. Abuse may not be the cause of the problem, but investigate what has happened if you have any concerns.
What abusers do
Abusers will try to create dependency in their victim to manipulate them.
People often find it difficult to accept that a family member is being abused. It's easy to believe everything is OK, even if something feels wrong. Abusers often rely on this to allow them to continue their actions. Having suspicions is OK, and knowing how to deal with the situation will allow you to help the person being abused.
Pay attention to the person you care for. They may be trying to tell you what's happening or showing subtle signs of mistreatment. Let the person know that they're not alone.
This could be happening if the person you care for has unexplained or untreated injuries, such as cuts, bruises or broken bones or signs that they have been restrained. They may have other signs, such as soiled clothing or bedding, or skin problems including bed sores, ulcers or damaged skin. Other signs can be less obvious, such as dehydration, malnourishment or weight loss. There may also be unexplained differences in the dosage of their medication.
Signs of psychological abuse, which can also be a crime, include confusion, reluctance to talk openly, implausible stories, unexplained fear or unusual behaviour such as sucking, biting or rocking. Some of these symptoms may indicate other conditions, such as dementia, so speak to a healthcare professional or get a second opinion if you’re concerned about this behaviour. The person may also be extremely withdrawn and non-communicative or unresponsive.
Fraud and theft are crimes and should be reported to the police. Signs of financial abuse include unpaid bills, suspect signatures, sudden changes in bank account balance, additional names appearing on a bank account, changes to a person’s will, sudden transfer or disappearance of assets including jewellery, and lack of things that the person should be able to afford.
Sexual assault is a crime that should be reported to the police. If a person is being sexually abused, they may have unexplained bruising around their breasts or genital area, venereal disease or genital infections, vaginal or anal bleeding or torn, stained or bloody underclothing.
The person you've been caring for may have started a relationship with another person living at the home, so find out the facts before you make conclusions about care home staff.
A person could be the victim of neglect if they live in unsanitary and unclean conditions, appear dirty, smell of urine or faeces, are wearing dirty or inadequate clothing, have rashes, sores or lice, have untreated medical conditions, or are not receiving proper amounts of medication.
In most cases, family abuse is not caused by the family member who provides most physical or emotional support, but by another member of the family.