Elder abuse and neglect is a growing concern in our nation, as it is a silent condition that often goes undetected. According to studies, one in four seniors is the victim of abuse and only a small portion of this is detected. Elder abuse is characterized by physical violence, neglect and theft. Sadly, the majority of victims are abused by loved ones.
Identifying Physical, Emotional and Financial Harm
Whether the abuse occurs in the home or a caregiving facility, it is often hard to detect. That said, the phenomenon does not come without signs and symptoms. In addition to having physical signs, such as bruises, bedsores, cuts and torn clothes, victims also demonstrate emotional symptoms, such as emotional withdrawal, apathy or unusual behavior. If you're concerned about a senior loved one, look for the following signs:
- Broken bones
- Burn marks
- Pressure marks
- Comments along the lines of "oh, she hit a door"
- Bed sores
- Soiled diapers
- Ripped or dirty clothing
- Unexplained weight loss
- Lack of necessary medical aids, such as hearing aids, glasses or a cane
- Nervous behavior
- Fearful behavior
- Forced isolation
- A strained relationship between your loved one and his or her caregiver
- Difficulty walking or standing
- Unaccounted for money
- Bills going unpaid
- Frequent cash withdrawals
- Unusual purchases
- High credit card bills
Putting a Stop to Elder Abuse
If your loved one is in a caregiving facility and he or she exhibits any of the signs of elder abuse, call 911 right away and report your concerns to the facility supervisor. If you suspect that your loved one's life is in danger, pull him or her from the facility and either care for the person yourself or find a new facility.
If you suspect that your loved one is being abused by a family member, call Adult Protective Services. An agent of APS will visit the home, investigate the situation and do what he or she can to intervene. Unfortunately, some states limit what APS can and cannot do, so it may be necessary to involve the police or another government agency to get your senior loved one out of the hands of the abusive family member.
Elder abuse can happen to anyone at any time. Sadly, many victims are too afraid to speak out against their abusers for fear of angering them even more. You can help keep your senior loved ones safe by knowing what signs to look for and reporting any suspicious symptoms or behaviors to APS and the local authorities.