THE BRONX - Tips on how to prevent elder abuse and find a reliable home health aide are being offered after a caregiver was charged with abusing an elderly woman.

Maria Milano, a home attendant, was arrested and charged with 13 counts of assault and two counts of welfare endangerment and harassment for allegedly abusing a 76-year-old who was in her care.

Joy Solomon, the director of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, says family members are sometimes the last ones to know that their elderly relatives are being mistreated or abused. She says families looking for a caregiver should always choose a licensed agency.        

"There are a lot of places on the Web that people can check to get feedback on those agencies," Solomon says. "You want to make sure you interview that person. You want to see how they interact not only with you, but with older people, to find out about their experiences."

Solomon says family members should be aware of any bruises on their loved ones and/or changes in their behavior. She recommends frequent unannounced visits to ensure a family member is being treated properly. She says an estimated 3 to 10 percent of elderly people are abused by a caregiver or a relative and many of those cases go unreported.

If you think your elderly loved one is being abused, experts say the first thing to do is get him or her to a safe environment and seek medical attention. They also say to avoid confronting the suspected abuser and to instead call police and the worker's agency immediately to notify them about the alleged abuse.