As a relative of an elderly individual, it can be hard to imagine that someone would want to hurt their senior family member. The bitter truth is that many senior citizens experience some sort of abuse even within their own homes. In fact, over 500,000 cases of elder abuse get reported in America every year. Elder abuse normally occurs inside the home of an older adults, but it can also take place in an institutional setting. The abuser/abusers may be adult children, spouses, grandchildren, or even professional caregivers.
You must make it a priority to watch out for any signs of mistreatment or abuse on your elderly family member. An older adult may experience different types of abuse; the most common ones being:
- Physical abuse – This type of elder abuse can be defined as the intentional use of force against an older individual, resulting in pain or injury. It can also include intentional starvation of an elderly person, depriving them of prescription medications, or giving them an overdose of medication.25% of all elder abuse cases fall under physical abuse, which may include punching, shaking, pushing, force feeding, burning, pinching, or any type of physical restraint or punishment. You might be able to identify this form of abuse through physical signs such as bruising, scarring, swelling, and more. The senior may also display a sudden change in behavior if they have been experiencing physical abuse. A caregiver abusing an elderly person might even prevent them from being alone with a visitor.
- Financial abuse – Financial elder abuse is when an individual illegally takes, uses, or conceals an elderly individual’s funds or other assets. 30% of all elder abuse cases fall under the category of financial abuse or exploitative abuse. You may be able to identify some signs of financial abuse, which includes modifications in financial documents or wills as well as the disappearance of valuable possessions or funds.
- Sexual abuse – Just like other cases of sexual abuse, this form of abuse on elders can be defined as any form of sexual contact that is non-consensual. Although this may involve physical sex acts, certain activities like forcing the senior to undress or watch sexual acts also fall under this category. Sexual elder abuse may be difficult to detect unless you’re a health care professional.
- Emotional abuse – An emotional or physical abuse of an elderly individual involves inflicting emotional pain or distress using words or action. At least 36% of all elder abuse cases can be categorized as psychological abuse. A senior may display signs of fear, withdrawal, or agitation when the abuser is present.Humiliation, ridicule, intimidation through treats or yelling, or habitual blaming are all classified under verbal emotional abuse. Ignoring the senior, isolating them from activities or social contact, and menacing them are the common non-verbal methods of emotional abuse on elders.
There are several ways you can prevent elder abuse or detect it at an early stage. By listening to them and taking action if you suspect anything wrong, you can do your part in controlling elder abuse and protect your loved one from suffering the same plight as many seniors. Read more about reporting elder abuse on the California Department of Social Services website.