Preventing Elder Abuse and Neglect in Older Adults

Health Care

Preventing Elder Abuse and Neglect in Older Adults

It is a crime that no one wants to think about. It goes against all of our moral and ethical values. But, it happens to one in ten of every senior citizen in the United States annually. Worse, only one in fourteen of the incidents is ever reported to authorities. What is this horrific crime? It is elder abuse.

Elder abuse comes in many forms. The law says the following actions are abuse when done to someone over the age of 60:

  • Physical or Domestic abuse – hitting, pushing, pinching or any other means of inflicting physical pain
  • Confinement – Isolating or restraining an elderly person for any reason other than medical necessity.
  • Emotional abuse – this includes intimidation, threats, verbal attacks and harassment
  • Financial abuse – misuse of funds or withholding the assets and finances of an elderly person
  • Abduction – taking a senior citizen from their state, by force and without their permission
  • Neglect – failure to provide the senior citizen with the necessities of life (shelter, food, water, medical care, clothing etc.)
  • Deprivation – failure to provide the elderly adult with medication, therapeutic devices, and physical assistance when required, or leaving them without any type of health insurance such as Medicare
  • Exposing an elderly person to physical, mental, or emotional harm. (unless the adult is competent and has refused these things)

Elderly people suffer at the hands of caregivers, nursing home attendants, and even their own family members. What are the warning signs that an elderly person in your life is being mistreated?

  • Bruises
  • Broken bones
  • Pressure marks
  • Burns
  • scrapes
  • Sudden changes in their financial situation
  • Bedsores
  • Poor hygiene
  • Unexplained or unusual weight loss
  • Crying or signs of fear regarding a particular person

Elderly people are unable to defend themselves. It is up to the other adults in society to speak for them. Often times they are afraid to tell anyone of the abuse they are suffering. If the elderly person is dealing with domestic abuse in the home, seek help immediately. A divorce mediator is a great professional to speak with for knowledge and guidance. Here are a few suggestions on how you can prevent an older person in your life from falling victim to elderly abuse.

Stay involved. Visit with them and arrange a personal time with them regularly. Encourage them to share their daily lives with you. Drop-in unannounced. Speak with your family member about their mail. If possible, sit with them when they review their mail and watch for unexplained credit cards or unusual bank activity. Do not argue or scold them for telling you anything. You can investigate on your own to determine the situation. If something feels “odd” question it. It is your right and responsibility.

While the elderly person is mentally competent, review their documents and determine if they have a will, power of attorney, and estate plans. Speak with an attorney to make all legal changes for their protection.

How to Report Abuse

If you know of an elderly person who is in immediate danger, call 911. If you suspect long-term mistreatment, report the situation to Adult Protection Services. If their adult care is provided by a facility or a hired caregiver, contact their supervisors and voice your concerns. Unless you have evidence of mistreatment, be careful not to accuse anyone. However, tell them in no uncertain terms that you expect an immediate investigation.

For more information, contact the National Center For Elder Abuse.