What is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse is an especially heinous crime because it often goes unnoticed and unreported. Many Americans are silently struggling from some form of elder abuse whether it is financial, physical, emotional or mental. Elder abuse often involves some level of neglect and is not limited to those living in nursing homes. One reason there isn’t enough awareness about elder abuse is because of the misconception that it comes from strangers or nursing care staff. In reality, abusers are more often relatives, friends, or trusted caregivers.
General Signs and Symptoms of Elder Abuse
Abuse among the elderly doesn’t discriminate when it comes to race, gender, social status, or geographic location. It is estimated that 1 in 13 elderly persons suffers from some form of elderly abuse. Unfortunately, seniors who experience abuse are unlikely to report the case. Identifying cases of elder abuse is further complicated by the fact that many seniors suffer from dementia or other cognitive diseases that make it hard for them to speak up about instances of abuse.
If you are concerned about your loved one, here are some general warning signs that elder abuse may be occurring are:
- Unusual changes in behavior and/or personality
- Constant tension and arguments between the elderly and his or her caregiver
- Physical signs such as bruising, bleeding, fractures
- Isolation – the elderly person is not allowed to be alone with visitors
- Signs of neglect including malnutrition, poor hygiene, untreated medical issues, and unsanitary and/or unsafe living conditions
- Sudden and unnecessary changes in an elderly persons financial status – money is missing and bills are not being paid
Who is at a Greater Risk for Elder Abuse?
Caring for an elderly person can be a positive and enriching experience and is ultimately the moral duty of younger generations; however, it can also be a very demanding and stressful experience. Lack of emotional and financial support for caregivers can often lead them to experience stress, depression, anger, and burn-out. Additional factors that may increase the chance of caregivers committing abuse include: lack of training, overwork, low pay, and inexperience.
Common risk factors include:
- The severity of a senior’s dementia or illness
- If the senior relies primarily on one specific person and they are isolated from others and together all of the time
- There has been history of domestic violence and abuse within the family
Preventing Elder Abuse
On March 23, 2010 The Elder Justice Act was signed into law as a part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This Act has assigned $750,000,000 to establish government funded grants and services including ongoing research, increased training for workers with Adult Protective Services (APS), and an oversight committee to prevent fraud. Although these larger programs will help prevent elder abuse, real solutions also start on a smaller scale with family members, caregivers, or eve complete strangers who are advocating for the elderly in their community.
Things you can do to prevent abuse among the elderly:
- If you see any warning signs that abuse is occurring, report it immediately
- If you suspect that a family member is being taken advantage of financially, you can offer to help by scanning bank accounts and making sure bills are being paid appropriately
- Offer to spend some time with your loved one to give the caregiver a break
- Be an advocate
No one deserves to be abused and any form of abuse is against the law. If you or someone you know is experiencing some form of elderly abuse it is important to report it immediately to the proper authorities. You can contact your local Department of Health and Human Services and help to end elder abuse.
“The Elder Justice Act and the Senior Citizen.” Geezer Guff. 14 Nov. 20, Web. 1 Nov. 2013.
“What is Elder Abuse?” Administration on Aging. 4 Sept. 2013, Web. 1 Nov. 2013.
“National Center on Elder Abuse: Administration on Aging.” Department of Health and Human Services. 1 Nov. 2013, Web. 1 Nov. 2013.