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.
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:
Financial abuse and exploitation
Emotional or psychological abuse and neglect (including verbal abuse and threats)
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;
Some common risk factors:
The victim has dementia;
The perpetrator and/or the victim has mental health or substance abuse issues;
Poor physical health, which increases vulnerability and thereby may increase risk.
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 cases come to the attention of authorities.
See Wyoming Elder Abuse Reporting or the Albany County SAFE Project for more information.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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 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.
In Wyoming, you can contact the Wyoming Department of Family Services for more information.
The Wyoming Office of the Attorney General, Division of Victim Services may provide additional help.
Also the Wyoming Department of Health, Aging Division provides an overview of services available to seniors in Wyoming.
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