When you think of child abuse or even domestic abuse, you often think of images of bruises and black eyes. Most abuse, however, goes undetected as perpetrators find alternative ways to tear down and abuse their victims. The same holds true for those who are victims of elder abuse.
Although laws vary from state to state, elder abuse is generally defined as the mistreatment or neglect of an elderly person whether it be in their own home or in an institution of higher care, such as a nursing home or assisted living. Elder abuse is often at the hands of a loved one or caregiver who has been entrusted with their care.
There are varying statistics on the frequency of elderly abuse. The U.S. Administration on Aging estimates that nearly 2 million elderly Americans are abused each year, but only 1 in 5 are reported. However, the Senate Special Committee on Aging estimates that there may be as many as 5 million cases. Regardless, this number is staggering, and most concerning is that the numbers are expected to rise every year.
Recognizing if your loved one is a victim of abuse is one of the first steps to getting help and stopping the abuse. There are several red flags that may alert you to elder abuse.
Warning Signs of Elder Financial Abuse
- Unexpected changes in wills and other legal documents, especially those concerning financial decisions, especially if the elder has memory impairment issues
- Caregiver is not providing necessities despite the elder having the resources
- Your loved one is giving the caregiver excessive reimbursement or gifts
- Resources are being depleted without being accounted for
Warning Signs of Elder Neglect
- Lack of basic hygiene, personal care and home care
- Lack of medical assistance
- Dementia patient left unsupervised for extended periods of time (when unsafe to do so)
- Untreated pressure ulcers (bed sores)
- Lack of care for bed-bound person
Warning Signs of Elder Psychological Abuse
- Caregivers are verbally aggressive and demeaning
- Caregiver withholds care, food or other necessities
- Caregiver doesn’t allow socialization with others
- Unexplained and sudden anxiety, depression or panic
Warning Signs of Elder Physical/Sexual Abuse
- Inadequately explained breaks, sores, bruises
- Unexplained fear of the caregiver
- Unexplained behaviors that are not a result of dementia or other behavioral/medical conditions
- Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases
Remember, many seniors bruise and sometimes bleed easily often due to medications they are taking. Some are also prone to falling for various reasons. So, from time to time, there may be unaccounted for bruises and scrapes, but if you are consistently seeing bruises without a reasonable explanation, this may be cause for concern.
Some seniors will also become victims of self-abuse. Basically, this means they are no longer caring for themselves and may need extra assistance whether in home or in a facility which can offer higher care, such as an assisted living facility.
What should you do if you suspect elder abuse?
If you suspect that an elder you know is a victim of elder abuse, report it. Don’t assume someone else will report it, because they probably won’t. Most cases of unreported go unreported leaving your loved one to remain in the care of the abuser. It’s important to note that it is not up to you to prove the abuse occurred you just need to have reasonable suspicious.
If you suspect your loved one is being abused in the community, contact your local Adult Protective Services agency and if you suspect abuse in an institutional setting, contact your local Long-Term Care Ombudsman.
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