Elder abuse is very common nowadays. Abuse of elderly happens in many different forms such as physical abuse, psychological abuse, neglect or financial abuse. The abuser can be anyone who has access to the senior and their personal belongings such as a child, brother or sister, friend, neighbor or caregiver.
According to the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), elder physical abuse is a form of elder maltreatment. Elder maltreatment is any form of neglect or abuse which occurs in people that are 60 years of age or older. Elder physical abuse may come from a caregiver, an acquaintance, a nurse, doctor, family member, or any other person the elderly patient has contact with. However, according to the U.S. National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA), The abusers of elderly are most likely to be unmarried, unemployed, and to live with the elderly patient.
For the prevention of physical abuse of an elderly in your surroundings, for example, when your parent is in a nursing home or is receiving care in an assisted living facility or at home, there are a few things you can do; for example by regular visits and attention for their behavior. Furthermore, pay attention to their health conditions and the medication they take and especially talk to them and listen to them.
Psychological abuse of elderly can be difficult to detect because, compared to physical abuse, there is no physical sign of this type of abuse. Psychological abuse of seniors happens a lot and includes for example intimidation, humiliating, ignoring the senior or isolating them from social activities.
Psychological abuse might be recognized by some of the following indicators:
- Low self-esteem
- Avoiding of eye contact
- Does not speak openly
- Seems hopeless, disturbed or scared
- Seems withdrawn, depressed or shy compared to the previous behavior
- Changing sleeping or eating patterns
- Avoids making own decisions
- Mood swings
- Avoids seeing or contacting other people
- Avoids social interaction
Seniors are often neglected; this means that a caretaking obligation is not fulfilled by someone who is supposed to fulfill this task. This happens most often with elderly who are not able to care for them self and need help of others to fulfill their basic needs. Often this happens because the amount of care an elder needs is ignored by a caretaker and therefore they fail to deliver the necessary care. Neglect is when the caretaker does not provide for an elder person´s safety or physical or psychological well-being. Examples are failing to provide the elder with the right medication, or not providing them with the necessary care, not taking care of their hygiene or leaving them in unsafe living conditions. Furthermore, neglect can mean leaving them alone for a long period of time and not fulfilling their social needs or needs for activities.
Another form of neglect in self-neglect. This happens when the elder is not properly taking care of themselves for example by not eating well or neglecting their hygiene by not showering or putting on clean clothes. Also not taking medication and not taking care of their own home are forms of self-neglect.
This means financial exploitation and happens when funds or belongings of a senior are used without their consent. Some schemes are very simple like using someone’s credit card or stealing their money or property. Also forging someone´s signature on checks or other documents, forcing the elder to signs documents that put the abuser in charge of their finances or only providing care if they promise the abuser money or property are forms of financial abuse. Sometimes even in telemarketing elderly are abused by misguidance or exaggeration that results in the elderly to transfer money.
What to do
When abuse of an elder is determined it is important to remove the elderly person from their living situation and have them live in a safer environment such as with family or in a more controlled living facility. There are multiple social services that can help you when you see or suspect elder abuse. They are specialized in it and help you to find out if there actually is a form of abuse and what to do when there is.