It’s nowhere in writing; however, we have a responsibility to protect our elders. They’ve made our lives comfortable as we know it today. Unfortunately, greed has taken over many that work directly with our elders. Each year, 2 million seniors become victims of abuse or neglect. It’s important for you to recognize the signs and symptoms of elder abuse in senior care facilities because you may be the only voice they ever have.
Why It’s Difficult Determining Elder Abuse
It is easier said than done to recognize the signs and symptoms of elder abuse. Even when a senior breaks down and tells about their situation, it’s often hard to believe. That could be because it sounds so outrageous, and the senior care facility seems so warm and loving looking from the outside in. Some of the abusive signs may mimic signs of dementia. Hopefully, this article will bring out the awareness you need to keep an open mind and heart.
The Types of Elder Abuse in Senior Care Facilities
The New York Times published an article in October 2000, Congressional Investigators Cite Safety Violations at Nursing Homes. This listed many tragic incidents reported throughout the United States of senior victims. Violations were found such as:
• Restraints found on residents
• No one responding to a resident’s plea for help
• Being bathed with soiled towels
• Ants crawling around the face of an elderly resident
• Residents are physically abused by other residents
• Molestation while bathing residents
There are many other terrible situations. The thought of these heinous actions is a cause for alarm. And, while some manners are nowhere near as serious as these, they are still minimizing our elderly’s dignity, freedom, and quality lifestyle. Below we discuss five common types of elder abuse in senior care facilities and how to recognize their signs.
Recognizing Financial Abuse
One of the most common forms of elder abuse is financial abuse. An elder’s money or property is misused or taken from them, including clothing, jewelry, and checks. You’ll notice this happening to your senior loved one if they have many unusual bank withdrawals, property no longer in their name, revisions to their will or trusts, or new credit lines opened.
Recognizing Physical Abuse
Sometimes physical abuse is easily recognized such as bruises on the arms and legs, bedsores, or broken bones. However, other things such as being slapped, pushed, shaken, forced fed, or not fed at all are not as easy to detect. Even when you do see these things, being in a senior care facility, a caregiver can fabricate “reasonable” explanations for it all. Things can be said such as “They fell off the bed, slipped in the tub, or had a bad night and dreamed it all” can be phrased in such a way, it’s believable. Other things to watch out for include sudden weight loss, dehydration, or always heavily sedated.
Recognizing Sexual Abuse
Unfortunately, sexual abuse is defined as any form of sexual activity in which one party involved does not give consent. However, being in a care facility, no employee or volunteer should be engaging in this conduct, even with a willing senior. Sexual abuse comes in many forms, including rape, fondling in the bathtub, sexual comments, exposure of genitals, and sexual harassment. A few signs you’ll notice are bleeding or bruises in genital areas, torn underwear, or having a sexually transmitted disease.
Recognizing Emotional Abuse
Emotional or psychological abuse inflicts fear and minimizes the feeling of self-worth and dignity in seniors every day. Emotional abuse includes:
• Ignoring a senior
• Calling them names
• Shouting at them
• Placing them in isolation
• Stripping them of making decisions
Senior victims of elder abuse exhibit signs of depression, often mumbles, are fearful and blame themselves consistently for minor problems.
Recognizing Isolation and Neglect
In senior care facilities that are understaffed and underpaid, isolation and neglect are a common occurrence. Staff may not want to be “bothered” with residents and lock them away in a room, unable to access their crutches or wheelchair. They may strap them down to their beds to prevent them from “hurting” themselves. They have no social interactions with other residents or staff.
Neglect of a senior is when a caregiver does not meet the senior’s needs. They won’t provide them with the food and beverages they need to sustain themselves, won’t properly bathe them, nor provide accurate medicines for pain and stability. You’ll notice signs of isolation and regret in seniors:
• Dressed in soiled clothing
• Living in unsanitary and unsafe living environments
• Appear malnourished
• Given frequent sedatives
• Show marks on their wrists and ankles, indicating they’ve been restrained
It’s hard to believe that any of this could go on inside a senior care facility. After all, they are supposed to be cared for. In these times, no one should be underestimated. For more information on how you can detect and stop elder abuse, visit the National Center on Elder Abuse website at http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/