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Is Your Loved One a Victim of Elder Abuse? Understanding, Preventing and Dispelling the Myths

Meghana Giridhar - June 13, 2014 10:42 AM

When an elder loved one gets to a point of needing assistance, most family members choose to either take on their responsibility themselves, hire a professional caregiver or seek the assistance of a senior community.

As loved ones age, they may or may not be in a position to stand up to someone taking undue advantage of them. Many elders around the world are being abused.

In the U.S. alone, more than half a million reports of abuse against the elderly reach authorities every year, and many more cases go unreported.

TYPES:

•    Physical Abuse: Using force against an elder resulting in pain or injury.

•    Emotional Abuse: Communicating in a way that causes emotional distress in elders. This could include:
o    Yelling
o    Threatening
o    Ridiculing
o    Intimidating
o    Ignoring an elder’s requests
o    Isolating a loved on from their friends

•    Sexual Abuse: Involving an elder in physical sex acts without his or her consent.

•    Financial Abuse: Using an elder person’s assets and funds without authorization. Some examples include misusing checks, credit cards, stealing cash or forging signatures.

•    Healthcare Abuse: This kind of abuse is at the hands of unscrupulous doctors, nurses or professional caregivers. Some examples include charging for healthcare even though no treatment has been provided, overcharging, overmedicating and Medicaid frauds.

RECOGNIZING SIGNS OF ELDER ABUSE:

The most important giveaway is a change in the personality or behavior. Becoming withdrawn, anxious or scared especially in front of certain persons is the first clue. Some other signs include:

•    Inadequate physical care, malnourishment, poor hygiene
•    Physical injuries
•    Unattended medical needs
•    Drastic changes in lifestyle such as an elderly person being in need of basic supplies even while having enough funds in the bank
•    Frequent arguments with a caregiver

MYTHS:

•    Family members will treat an elderly person better than a hired professional or a nursing home:
In many cases, relatives may not be well trained or not have the skills to supervise an elderly person.

•    An elder being abused will show visible signs of abuse:
There are no outward clues for mental, emotional and financial abuse nor can they be verified unless there is 24/7 audio-visual monitoring of the caregiver.

•    Emotional and mental abuse should be easy to spot or to confirm.
Signs of abuse are often overlooked and even trained professionals can sometimes make mistakes.

•    Emotional and mental abuse is not as damaging as physical abuse.
These are not only more damaging in the long run but also tougher to cure.

•    All family members have an elder’s best interest in mind at all times.
Resenting an elder for having to take care of him or her causes many family members to get distracted or detached leading them to ignore or be insensitive to the elders’ needs.

•    If you suspect an elderly person is being abused, it is easy to fix the problem.
Some family members find it difficult to believe that someone could be so cruel to an elderly person and often dismiss their fears. In other cases, finding conclusive evidence can be tough making it difficult to report the offender. In addition, the process to obtain justice can be lengthy as well as expensive involving heavy lawyer’s fees.

•    Abusive caretakers will willingly confess and will not fight any attempts to stop their abusive practices.
Caretakers may strongly defend their actions, sometimes partly blaming the elderly for the problems at hand.

•    Abusive situations occur more easily in nursing homes than at home.
State agency inspectors regularly monitor nursing homes and senior living facilities. Employees have to take background checks and drug screening tests. Abuse at home is more difficult to identify.

•    Elder abuse doesn't happen in affluent families.
Abuse crosses socio-economic lines.

•    Elder abuse happens primarily to women.
Any older person can be a victim.

PREVENTING AND REPORTING:

Listening to seniors and caregivers and taking the right steps when elder abuse is suspected is among the first steps to prevent elder neglect. Watching for warning signs and reporting it as soon as possible is crucial. The Adult Protective Services (APS) is the first agency to call. The agency investigates cases, intervenes and offers support, depending on the scope within a state.

You can also reach out to:

International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse


National Center on Elder Abuse

National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse remains a drastically under-reported crime. Many vulnerable seniors don’t want to admit to being abused. June 15th, 2014 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. It is our opportunity to promote a better understanding of the neglect by raising awareness on the subject so our loved ones can live without fear.

REFERENCES:

http://voices.yahoo.com/15-elderly-care-abuse-myths-misconceptions-8242295.html?cat=5

http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/Stop_Abuse/Prevention/Strategies/index.aspx

http://www.thestar.com/opinion/2009/11/11/goar_the_myths_surrounding_elder_abuse.html

http://www.helpguide.org/mental/elder_abuse_physical_emotional_sexual_neglect.htm

Meghana Giridhar serves as Content Coordinator and is part of eCareDiary's founding team.  In her role, she oversees and edits content across all of eCareDiary's media platforms.

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