The Truth about Elder Abuse

By July 23, 2015Aging in Place, eldercare

Elder abuse is one of those ugly topics many are hesitant to discuss. Stories of elder abuse are met with incredulity and horror by society and yet, it continues to occur. Elder abuse is defined as causing harm or creating a serious risk of harm, as well as the failure to meet the elder’s basic needs or protect them from harm.

Only one in 14 abuse cases ever comes to light, mostly because the majority of abusers are family members. It’s a problem that needs to be addressed because the population is aging. Elders are increasing in number. The US Census estimates that in 35 years (the year 2050) one in five Americans will be over the age of 65. The so-called “Super Old” – those over the age of 85 – will triple by that time. That said, it’s critically important to spread awareness about elder abuse to help prevent such acts.

The first step is recognizing elder abuse, so be sure to spot the warning signs. The most common are:

  • Changes in the senior’s personality or mood
  • Fearful or defeated behavior from the senior
  • Unexplained bruises or injuries
  • Unusual weight loss
  • A change in the senior’s hygiene
  • Significant withdrawals from the elder’s bank account
  • Suspicious changes in the elder’s official documents
  • There are a handful of common obstacles people face when reporting elder abuse. They are:

  • Many family members are not properly trained to recognize abuse
  • The elder may not report abuse for fear of retaliation or further injury
  • The elder may be isolated and have no way of reporting abuse
  • Abuse may not be obvious, as it can be physical, emotional or financial
  • Those elders who need care the most unfortunately suffer abuse the most. Close to 50 percent of people with dementia experience some kind of abuse. More than 50 percent of disabled men and women report physical or sexual abuse.

    What can be done? Hospitals and other clinical centers need to make sure that they are providing caregivers and loved ones with as much information as possible about elder abuse. It’s critical for caregivers and family members to participate in training not only in assisting the elderly with daily tasks, but in coping with the emotional pressures of being a caregiver. Always be sure to listen to seniors and intervene if you suspect elder abuse. Finally, spread awareness and educate your friends and family about how to recognize and report elder abuse.

    As the nation ages, we need to make sure we are well equipped to provide loving care and support for aging Americans.

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