Elder Abuse and Neglect: Understand and Recognize the Signs
Elder abuse can happen anywhere – in someone’s own home, in the home of a relative, or in a care facility. As people grow older and more dependent on others, they become more susceptible to physical, emotional, financial, and sexual abuse as well as neglect by family or professional caregivers. Understanding the different types of abuse and the red flags to watch for are the first step in preventing and putting a stop to abuse.
Physical Abuse is any act causing harm. Hitting, shoving, pinching, biting, slapping or inappropriate use of restraints are all forms of physical abuse.
Possible Signs of Physical Abuse:
Signs of injury such as bruises, welts, burns
Fractures, dislocations or sprains
Misusing or not dispensing prescribed medications
History of similar injuries
Suspicious explanations of how injury occurred
Emotional Abuse refers to one person subjecting another to confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, or other acts which can harm them, elicit fear, or diminish feelings of self-worth.
Possible Signs of Emotional Abuse
Insulting behaviors such as name calling or mocking
Use of threats and intimidation
Noticeable decrease in participation in activities
Exclusion of others from elder’s environment
Denying abuse (victim or caregiver)
Blaming the victim
Unexplained rocking or mumbling
Caregiver appearing overwhelmed, frustrated, acting with disrespect
Sexual Abuse is manipulating or coercing an elder person to perform sexual acts of any kind.
Possible Signs of Sexual Abuse
Bruises around breasts or genitals
Unexplained vaginal bleeding
Unexplained STD’s or infections
Increased difficulty walking or sitting
Depression or withdrawal
Display of anxiety or fear around caregiver
Elder Neglect is failing to fulfill responsibilities as a caregiver. Neglect can take many forms and may include withholding nourishment, medication, hygienic care, exercise, and social stimulation. Whether intentional or not, the impact of these behaviors on the elder is the same.
Possible Signs of Neglect
Weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration
Untreated medical problems such as bedsores, rashes, cuts, infections
Absence of needed dentures, eyeglasses, hearing aids, or other medical equipment
Unsanitary living conditions such as soiled bedding and clothing; poor hygiene
Inappropriate clothing for weather conditions
Desertionor leaving elder for long periods of time without care
Elder displaying confusion, depression
Financial Abuse refers to the misuse of or intentional stealing the assets of an elder through deception, harassment, duress and/or threats. Common examples include theft, fraud, transfer of real estate or other assets, lottery or investment scams, electronic (email bank passwords).
Possible Signs of Financial Exploitation
Unpaid bills despite adequate income
Oversight of finances given to others or “new friends” without explanation
Checks written to “cash”
Significant cash withdrawals from accounts
Unexplained changes in wills, power of attorney and other legal documents
Addition of names to signature cards
Unexplained charges on credit cards
What to do if you suspect abuse of any kind? Call Adult Protective Services (http://www.napsa-now.org/get-help/how-aps-helps/) and file a report. If the suspected abuse is occurring inside a care facility, contact your local Ombudsmen. This may be done on the phone or in person and if you desire, can remain anonymous. Alerting APS or the Ombudsmen is an important step to help keep a senior safe!
Watch for our post next week “Knowing How to Get Help When an Elder Shows Signs of Abuse.”
If you have any questions or would like to be in touch with a Senior Care Authority Advisor in your area call (888) 854-3910 for a no-cost phone consultation. We have many resources to share with you including subjects that are found in this article. You can also find a local advisor on our websiteat www.seniorcareauthority.com.