Elder abuse is far more common than many people think. Here is everything you need to know to help spot the warning signs of elder abuse and neglect and how you can stop them in their tracks.
What is Elder Abuse and Neglect?
First and foremost, elder abuse can come in different forms such as emotional, physical, or sexual harm that is done to an older person. These elders can be exploited for one’s financial gain and neglected by the people who were directly responsible for ensuring they are safe and sound.
In the United States alone, over half a million reports of elder abuse are reported each year, and there are always millions of cases that are never reported to the authorities.
As a person ages, they will become frail and will not be able to take care of themselves as they once did. They will not be able to stand up to bullying or fight back if/when they feel physically or emotionally attacked.
With their physical and mental ailments slowly deteriorating, it puts more strain on those who are responsible for taking care of them.
But with them not being as active can leave them as an easy target for people to take advantage of them.
However, what is really frightening is that most of the elder abuse takes place right where the elder lives. Unfortunately, most elder abusers are the elder’s own children, grandchildren, or their partner in some cases. Elder abuse can even happen in long-term care facilities as well.
If you believe that an elder is at risk for being abused or neglected, whether it is for financial gain or just from an overtired caregiver, it is vital that you speak up about it. Everyone even elders deserve to live in a safe place and treated with the respect they deserve.
Now, we are going to go over the warning signs of elder abuse to help you better understand what the risk factors and you are can prevent this from happening along with reporting the abuse and/or neglect.
Types of Elder Abuse
As we previously talked about the abuse in elders can take many different forms. Some will involve threats while others involve intimidation, all the way to financial trickery, or neglected.
However, the most common types of elder abuse are the following:
Physical Elder Abuse
This abuse is non-accidental. This abuse is where force is used against the elder and ends up resulting in injury, physical pain, or even worse impairment.
This abuse does not solely mean physical assaults such as shoving or hitting, but it can also deal with the inappropriate use of confinement, drugs, and restraints.
Emotional Elder Abuse
Emotional Elder Abuse is where another adult causes psychological or emotional pain or distress to the elder. This can include the following:
- Ridicule or Humiliation
- Intimidation from threats or yelling
- Ignoring the elder
- Habitual scapegoating or blaming
- Isolating the elder from activities or friends
- Menacing or terrorizing the elder
Sexual Elder Abuse
Touching an elder without their consent is sexual elder abuse. This touch can involve physical sex acts, but also making the elder watch pornographic material, or even undress when they do not want to.
Elder Neglect is when you fail to fulfill your caretaking duties. Unfortunately, elder neglect counts for over half of the reported cases of elder abuse in the United States. Whether it is unintentional or intentional, it is still elder neglect.
Financial Exploitation is when the caregiver will use the elder’s property or funds for their own personal gain. A caregiver may try one or many of the following things:
- Misuse credit cards, checks, or other financial accounts
- Steal income checks, household goods, and cash
- Involve themselves in identity theft
- Forge the elder’s signature
Elder Self-Neglect in Nevada
Elder self-neglect is going to be one of the more common forms of elder abuse. Self-neglect is a main sign of grief, depression, dementia, among other medical problems. However, elders will typically always refuse to NOT seek any sort of assistance. The elder may feel ashamed, in denial about needing any form of help. Elders typically do not want to lose their independence.
Elder Abuse Warning Signs
It is very unfortunate that the signs of elder abuse are highly difficult to recognize. Many of the warning signs of elder abuse are commonly mistaken for symptoms of the elder’s frailty or even dementia.
Physical Elder Abuse Warning Signs
- Dislocations, sprains, and broken bones
- Unexplained bruises, injury, scars, and welts
- Broken frames or eyeglasses
- You are not allowed to see the elder without the caregiver present
Emotional Elder Abuse Warning Signs
- Behavior that is like dementia. Things such as sucking, mumbling, or rocking
- Controlling caregiver behavior, belittling, and threatening
Sexual Elder Abuse Warning Signs
- Bruises around genitals and/or breasts
- Unexplained anal and/or vaginal bleeding
- Bloody, stained, or torn undergarments
Elder Self-Neglect or Elder Neglect Warning Signs
- Unusual dehydration, weight loss, or malnutrition
- Untreated physical ailments
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Unsafe living conditions
- Unsuitable clothing
Financial Elder Exploitation Warning Signs
- Sudden financial change
- Huge withdrawals from elder’s financial accounts
- Cash and items mission from their household
- Unexplained changes in power of attorney, policies, titles, and wills
- New names added to the elder’s credit cards and/or debit cards
Healthcare Abuse or Fraud Warning Signs
- Multiple billings for the same service
- Under medication or overmedication
- Inadequate care
- Poorly paid, poorly trained staff equals a poor care facility
How to Prevent Elder Neglect and Abuse
If you are a caregiver to an elder and you feel like you may be in danger of neglecting or even hurting them whether it is unintentional or intentional, you should be happy to know there are many support groups and help available to you.
Whether you are having a program controlling your anger or you feel the tension growing between the both of you, recognizing this early on can prevent you from making this into a bigger problem than it already is.
With you being the caregiver for the elder, all starts with you. You can prevent any and all neglect or abuse while the elder is in your care by taking the following actions:
Relieve Your Stress/Burnout
Stress is going to be a major factor when it comes to elder abuse and/or neglect. By you just reducing your stress levels on a regularly basis by doing some deep breathing exercises, meditation or yoga, this will not only help you remain calm, but the elder too.
Ask for Help
Do not be afraid to ask for help from your relatives, local respite care agencies, friends, and even adult daycare programs.
It doesn’t mean you are weak or can’t handle things on your own. Because every caregiver needs a break from time to time. Taking care of someone is a stressful job and sometimes you need to attend to your own wants and needs even if it is only for a little while.
Take Care of You Too
This goes hand in hand with the other points, but if you are not taking care of yourself, how do you expect to take care of someone else? Make sure you are getting enough sleep and the rest of your needs are being met.
See Someone for Your Depression
Caregivers commonly get depressed. It’s natural. You are putting someone else’s needs before your own. The best thing you can do is seek help for your depression before it gets bad.
Locate Support Groups
You may think you are the only one taking care of someone near and dear to you, but you are not. Ask your local elder homes and services if they know when and where local support groups get together. This will be your lifeline. You will be around people that ‘get’ you. It’ll be a breath of fresh air.
How to NOT be a Victim of Elder Abuse
It is always best to get your legal and financial affairs in order well before you need the care. However, if you are finding out that a caregiver is right around the corner, get your affairs in order before you truly will ever need them.
Always stay in touch with your family, friends, and whoever you see on a regular basis. Don’t let your caregiver isolate you from the people who you want to be around.
If you are unhappy with the care you are receiving, speak up. It does not matter if it’s your own family, you are in a facility, or whatever else you are. Tell someone you 100-percent trust or call the elder abuse helpline yourself.
How to Report Elder Abuse
If you, yourself are an elder who is being neglected, exploited, or abused, you should tell someone you trust. Even if the person you tell is your family, friend, or even your doctor, you need to tell someone immediately.
If you do not have anyone you can trust, you can call one of the helplines, which can get you the help you need.
If you happen to see an elder being neglected or abused, do not wait to report the situation until later. Report the situation immediately. You can save that elders life.