Elder abuse, like any other kind of abuse takes many forms- subtle and not so subtle.
Unfortunately, it is very common.
According to the San Diego Country District Attorney’s website, over 9000 cases of senior abuse cases are processed each year.
Sadly, even with that high number, many of these incidents go unreported.
As a caregiver, it’s important that you are able to tell when elder abuse is happening for two reasons:
- So you don’t do it yourself
- So you have the knowledge and tools to report it when you spot it.
In today’s post, we’ll go over the definition of elder abuse, the signs that elder abuse is going on and what you can do when you find out.
What is Elder Abuse?
The best way to define elder abuse is to talk about the different types of elder abuse that exist.
- Physical abuse – This happens when a person is harmed physically. Hitting, pushing, shoving or is roughly handling a senior are all examples of elder abuse. Most of the time this happens because the elder is physically weak and cannot retaliate.
- Emotional abuse – Emotional abuse is also called psychological abuse. This involves yelling, insulting and using abusive words, threatening and repeated ignoring the elder. Anything that is done to intentionally make a person unhappy can be considered emotional abuse.
- Neglect – This occurs when the caregiver does not try to respond to the older person’s needs.
- Abandonment – This happens when the senior is left alone without a plan for his or her care.
- Sexual abuse – Forcing an elderly person to watch or participate in sexual acts is sexual abuse.
- Financial abuse – This involves mismanagement of money and property that belongs to the elder. This would include family members lying about having financial needs and taking money from the elderly and then refusing to pay it back. Financial scams can be categorized as financial abuse as well.
Signs of Elder Abuse
The following are signs that there is elder abuse going on.
- Elder has trouble sleeping
- An otherwise upbeat elder is now quiet and withdrawn
- Elder has trouble eating
- Unexplained weight loss
- Elder does not make eye contact with the abuser when they are around
- The elder complains of aches and pains constantly
- Multiple bruises at different stages of healing
- The elder loses weight for no reason
- A visit to the elder’s home shows an unkempt room/smells of urine and feces
- Elder is wearing clothes that look unwashed and stained
- The elder is easily agitated and violent
- The elder develops bed sores and other preventable conditions
If you notice any of these signs of elder abuse, it is important for you to talk to the elder to find out what is going on.
It is possible that when you broach the subject, the elder will be resistant to open up. This can happen because they may feel they don’t want to incriminate the abuser especially if they are family members.
When you talk to such a person, assure them of that while you respect their privacy, it is important that you report the abuse to the right authorities to protect them.
This is not an easy conversation for the abused.
So please understand the emotions the person might go through in sharing this bit of news with you.
What To Do After You Confirm Abuse
Elder abuse will not stop on its’ own. It is not a “phase” or “season”. It is a chronic problem that can go on for years.
Because most abusers are close relatives, it is likely that an abused elder will not report the abuse themselves.
It is therefore important that after you’ve confirmed the abuse that you report it to the appropriate authorities.
You can report elder abuse to:
- Your local police
- If you overhear physical abuse going on, call 911
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233 – toll-free, 24/7
1-800-787-3224 – TTY/toll-free)
- You can also locate resources using the Elder Care Locator (call 1-800-677-1116 toll-free) and the National Center on Elder Abuse (call 1-855-500-3537 toll-free).
Elder abuse is real.
And it is a terrible problem.
When you see it and confirm it, please report it.
The life of the elder may be at stake.
Did you find this post useful?
Please share it with someone else. It might save a life.