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May 28, 2024 General Interest

Elder Abuse Awareness

June is World Elder Abuse Awareness Month

Each year, hundreds of thousands of older adults are abused, neglected, and exploited. People who are taken advantage of are often older, frail, and vulnerable individuals who are unable to help themselves and depend on others for their basic needs. The abusers may be family members, friends, caregivers, or others whom they trust.

The term elder abuse refers to an act that causes harm to or puts a vulnerable adult at a serious risk of harm by another person. All 50 states have passed laws to prevent elder abuse. Laws and definitions of terms vary from state to another. The State of Wisconsin defines Elder Abuse as the following:

Wisconsin Department of Human Services: Adult Protective Services Definitions

Abuse – per Wis. Stat. §46.90(1) can mean any of the following:

  1. Physical abuse – intentional or reckless infliction of physical pain or injury, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.
  2. Emotional Abuse – language or behavior that serves no legitimate purpose and is intended to intimidate, humiliate, threaten, frighten, or otherwise harass the individual to whom the conduct or language is directed.
  3. Sexual Abuse – sexual contact or intercourse with another person without consent (a violation of criminal assault law.
  4. Treatment without Consent – the administration of medication or the performance of psychosurgery, electro-convulsive therapy, or experimental research on an individual who has not provided informed consent, with the knowledge that no lawful authority exists for the administration or performance.
  5. Unreasonable Confinement or Restraint – the intentional and unnecessary confinement of an individual in a locked room, involuntary separation from his or her living area, use of physical restraints, or the provision of unnecessary or excessive medication. (Note: This does not include the use of these methods or devices if they conform with state and federal standards governing confinement and restraint.)

Caregiver – a person who has taken responsibility for all or part of an individual’s care. (Wis. Stat. §46.90(1)(an))

Financial Exploitation – as defined in Wis. Stat. §46.90(1)(ed), means any of the following:

  1. Obtaining an individual’s money or property by deceiving or enticing the individual.
  2. Forcing, compelling, or coercing an individual to give, sell at less than fair market value, or in other ways transfer money or property against their will without informed consent.
  3. Theft.
  4. The substantial failure or neglect of a fiscal agent to fulfill his or her responsibilities.
  5. Unauthorized use of an individual’s personal identifying information or documents.
  6. Unauthorized use of an entity’s identifying information or documents.
  7. Forgery.
  8. Financial transaction card crimes.

Warning Signs of Elder Abuse

The signs of elder abuse can range from physical abuse that you can see and abuse that is not visual to the naked eye.  According to National Institute of Aging the following can be signs of abuse:

  • Become withdrawn or act agitated or violent.
  • Display signs of trauma such as rocking back and forth.
  • Have unexplained pressure marks, bruises, burns, cuts, or scars.
  • Develop preventable conditions such as bedsores (open sores that can develop when a person stays in one position for a long time, such as being confined to a bed).
  • Have hazardous, unsafe, or unclean living conditions.
  • Look messy, with unwashed hair, dirty clothes, or poor dental hygiene.
  • Lack personal health care items such as glasses, a walker, dentures, or hearing aid.
  • Have sudden and unexpected financial losses or unpaid bills despite having adequate financial resources.

National Institute on Aging: Signs of Elder Abuse

If you suspect abuse, watch for changes in personality and/or physical changes.  BE ALERT!

Wisconsin Elder Abuse Hotline

The Wisconsin Elder Abuse Hotline is a toll-free hotline available for community members and victims to contact for assistance in obtaining needed resources and making referrals to local authorities.

Wisconsin Elder Abuse Hotline: 1-833-586-0107

The program also includes outreach to victims and an online reporting tool on the website.

Individuals who suspect they are a victim of elder abuse or know someone who may be experiencing abuse are encouraged to learn more about the signs at and make a report through Wisconsin Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-833-586-0107.

Medicare Fraud is also a form of abuse.  If you detect or suspect fraud or abuse, you can do something about it, you can report it! Reported information is sent on to the appropriate authorities for further investigation. The information reported can collectively discern and expose a pattern of fraud or abuse. The authorities can then determine a course of action. All reports count – every report matters. Here are steps SMPs recommend beneficiaries take to report their concerns:

  • Call the health care provider or supplier first to question the charge. If it was a mistake, ask them to correct it.
  • Call the company that paid the bill if the provider or supplier can’t answer the question. Their contact information can be found on your Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) or Explanation of Benefits (EOB).
  • Contact the Wisconsin SMP if you are not satisfied with the response you get from a provider, supplier, or billing company. Please have your MSN or EOB available when you call, along with any other supporting documentation that shows possible fraud or abuse.
  • If fraud or abuse is suspected, SMPs refer cases to the proper authorities for further investigation.