You might be horrified at the number of our beloved seniors who fall victim to elder abuse.
Each year, an estimated 5 million older persons are abused, neglected, and exploited.
Elders throughout the US lose over $2.6 billion annually due to elder financial abuse and exploitation, money that they could have used to pay for basic needs such as housing, food, and medical care.
Senior Care Corner® joins the awareness campaign of the National Center on Elder Abuse as we are “United Against Elder Abuse-One Person, One Action, One Nation” on June 15.
What is Elder Abuse?
Abuse of elders refers to the intentional or neglectful act by a trusted individual or caregiver that can or may lead to the harm of a vulnerable elder.
Abandonment and self-neglect are forms of abuse, as are physical, emotional, financial and neglect.
Some believe that elder abuse can occur by strangers who seniors may trust but who are not familiar, such as through the internet. But it can also be at the hands of someone they know.
How To Recognize Elder Abuse
Every one of us can potentially interact with — and help! — a senior who has been a victim.
Many seniors don’t tell that they have been scammed, injured or bullied by someone out of fear or embarrassment.
There are warning signs that will help us all spot potential abuse and report it. You only have to suspect it to make a report to authorities, they will investigate.
Many don’t tell because they are afraid the abuse will only get worse.
If you believe that an elder is in imminent danger, call 911 or local law enforcement.
Here are some common signs of elder abuse:
- Physical abuse
Cuts or sores
Sexual abuse/sexually transmitted disease
Lack of food or clean clothes
No supervision for safety, if needed
Poor living conditions – dirty, safety hazard, poorly maintained, no stove or refrigerator, lack of water or heat/cooling
Lack of medical necessities, such as glasses, dentures, hearing aids, medicines or assistive devices
Untreated wounds or other medical conditions
Confined to bed or room
No control over money, if able
Vulnerable senior signing over assets without comprehension
“Voluntarily” giving to charities or gifts in excessive amounts, especially in return for companionship
Unable to have access to items that they can afford
Being coerced into giving money, passwords, or property
Withdrawal from usual behavior or activities
Change in usual behavior or personality
Isolation at the hands of another, being cut off from family and friends
Caregiver verbally abusive, demeaning, controlling, bullying, uncaring
Who Is At Risk?
Unfortunately, no one is immune to abuse, neglect, and exploitation. It occurs in every demographic, and can happen to anyone.
Abuse can occur wherever the senior adult lives – home, hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation, or on the internet.
Older women are more susceptible to abuse as are both male and females over 80.
Dementia, isolation, mental health and substance abuse are also risk factors for types of elder abuse.
Unfortunately, the abuser is often someone in the senior’s own family.
As many as 11% of seniors (not including those with dementia) when asked, report some form of abuse. However, as few as 1 in 14 cases are ever reported to the authorities.
What Can You Do?
Everyone can act to save seniors from abuse.
Here are some things that caregivers and all of us need to do to protect our seniors.
- It is important to be aware of the possibility of elder abuse in those seniors you know.
- Look for warning signs and act!
- Talk about elder abuse and teach others about the danger seniors face every day in our communities.
- Talk to and observe your senior loved one and other seniors in your life so that you can spot signs of abuse early. Remind them about how much you care for them and their safety.
- Ask questions and listen to their answers, you may learn something surprising.
- Pay attention to senior’s financial condition and if needed, review financial accounts for signs of mismanagement.
- Volunteer in programs that give support or assistance to elders who are victimized.
- Help caregivers by giving them respite so that they will not burnout or mistreat elders in frustration. Doing tasks for caregivers to lighten their load could prevent abuse.
- If you are suspicious about abuse of seniors in your community, contact your local Adult Protective Services agency or long term care Ombudsman to report your suspicions.
Your efforts could prevent an elder from being abused!