Elder Abuse and Neglect

As much as our society doesn’t like to talk about it, abuse is far too common. While any type of abuse toward any person is tragic, regardless of age, it is especially heinous for children and seniors, since those are the two groups of people who are most vulnerable. Since we’re speaking about elders specifically, however, let’s focus on that group.

To start, elders become more at risk for abuse because they are aging and frail. As such, they’re often unable to defend themselves against attacks and are often more vulnerable to attack since their senses aren’t as good as they were when they were younger.

Elder abuse most often happens in the place where the elder lives: in many cases it is in the home where the abuse comes from adult children or other family members such as grandchildren, or even the spouse or partner of the elder. However, elder abuse may also take place in institutional settings like nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

There are different types of abuse that are common among the elderly, and those include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect or abandonment by caregivers, financial exploitation, and more. While we’ll cover some of the indicators of abuse in later articles, for now, let’s focus on what you as a caregiver, friend or family member (and then the elder themselves) can do to help prevent situations of elder abuse.

Caregiver tips:

  • Ask for help from friends, relatives or local respite care agencies, so that you can take a break for yourself, even if it’s only a couple hours.
  • Find an adult day care program.
  • Keep yourself healthy and get medical care if and when you need it.
  • Adopt stress reduction practices.
  • Look into getting counseling for depression, since that is a common cause for elder abuse.
  • Find a support group for caregivers of the elderly.
  • Get help if you struggle with alcohol or drug abuse.

Tips for Family and Friends:

  • Look out for warning signs that can be indicative of abuse (more on this here).
  • Take a look at the person’s medications. Does the amount in the bottle match up with the date on the prescription?
  • Watch for any signs of financial abuse. Ask the person if you can see bank accounts and credit card statements for any unauthorized transactions.
  • Call and visit as often as possible. Help the senior to see and consider you as someone they can trust.
  • Offer to stay with the person so his or her caregiver can get a break themselves, preferably on a regular basis, if possible.

Tips for Elders:

  • Make sure that both your financial and legal matters are in order. If not, consider calling on professional help to make them so, along with a trusted friend or family member, if necessary.
  • Keep in touch with family and friends to help avoid becoming isolated.
  • If you don’t like the care you’re getting, whether at home or in a facility, SPEAK UP. Tell someone you trust and ask that they report the abuse, neglect or substandard care to an elder abuse helpline or long-term care ombudsman, or make the call yourself.

So as you can see, there are a lot of options available when it comes to elder abuse and helping to rectify the situation. There is help for you whether you are an elder, caregiver, or even an abuser. Things can (and will) get better; we just have to be willing to step up, speak up, and do something about it.