The first time I was aware of elder abuse was in a nursing home. I was a teenager, working part time. One of the aids got caught beating a patient. It was an eye opening experience.
Elder abuse is often unreported. As few as one in fourteen cases of domestic elder abuse (abuse done in the home) are reported. Financial elder abuse could be as high as one in twenty-five cases. Neglect is the most frequent form of abuse, involving 55% of the substantiated cases.
This abuse may be at the hands of anyone who as access to the elder. Relatives are the usual suspects, whether it’s from lack of knowledge, an inability to cope or not having the right personality for the job.
That does not mean that all abuse is done in the home. One third of the nursing homes in the U.S. have had violations related to elder abuse. That’s a scary figure, especially if there is no choice but to place the elder in such an institution.
There are things that we can do to protect our elders, no matter where they are living. Education is one of the most important aspects. First, know the signs of abuse.
Physical: Some signs are obvious. Injuries such as bruising, broken bones and sprains, especially in a chair or bed bound senior are a red flag warning. Less obvious may be signs that the elder has been tied up. Rope burns may not be as obvious but they are a sign of trouble.
Sexual: Bruising around the breasts, genitals or anus may be hard to detect, especially if no one is looking. Blood in/on underclothing is more likely to be noticed.
Emotional: Depression, anger, agitation and withdrawal are all signs of emotional abuse.
Financial: Large withdrawal of funds is one key sign of financial abuse. Though many cases do involve relatives, they aren’t the only suspects. Financial predators abound, offering unneeded services, not providing adequate service when hired or using contests, sweepstakes and lottery tickets to get money.
Neglect: Knowingly and willingly avoiding care for an elder who is supposed to be under care constitutes neglect. Self neglect is the most frequent problem, but not the only one. Neglect can result in other types of abuse, but it is just as deadly all by itself.
There are several things that can be done to prevent elder abuse. Knowing the signs of abuse is the first step in prevention. However, there is more that can be done.
Get help: Eldercare is a big job and a lot of responsibility. Many times the caregiver is also trying to hold down a job, and that adds even more stress. If you have an elder who needs care and you aren’t the caregiver, lend a hand. If you are the caregiver, find someone to help you.
Monitor finances: We found out about a financial predator because we were watching our elder’s accounts. When we discovered it, we were able to stop it. However, if we hadn’t been doing so, the loss would have been in five figures.
Call APS: Adult protective services is the elder version of child protective services. Most states have some form of APS, and they are willing to take calls anonymously. If you suspect abuse, don’t hesitate.