Elder abuse or mistreatment includes intentional or neglectful acts by a caregiver with harmful effect on a person 60 years of age or older. Although there have been vast improvements to assisted living and senior care facilities over the past decades to ensure senior residents are cared for and accommodated properly, senior abuse is still a problem that some seniors face on a daily basis. All 50 states have laws in place to protect seniors from abuse, and the U.S. Preventative Service Task Force is working to improve the methods in place for screening and inquiring to detect abuse and neglect among seniors.
Laws and policies are in place to enforce the rights of seniors and protect them from all the various forms of abuse, including but not limited to:
Physical abuse: Causing pain or injury to a senior.
Emotional abuse: Causing mental pain/distress to a senior by verbal or nonverbal acts.
Sexual abuse: Non-consensual sexual acts of any sort.
Neglect: Failure to provide food, shelter, or medical attention to a senior.
Abandonment: A caregiver deserting the senior for whom they are responsible.
Self-Neglect: Failure to provide self-care tasks that endangers senior health.
Signs of Elder Abuse
In circumstances where abuse has occurred, a senior may attempt to keep the abuse a secret due to fear, shame, embarrassment, dependency on their caregiver, or other psychological reasons. The senior may also be incapable of expressing or realizing their abusive situation due to a mental condition that is being taken advantage of. There are however, some basic signs to look out for in order to discover some possible abuse that is taking place. The warning signs of elder abuse can be physical or behavioral.
Physical indications of abuse may include: bruising, burns, dehydration, malnutrition, missing medications, scalp swelling, unexplainable fractures, poor medical condition in spite of proper medical access to medicine, patterned injuries (like slap or bite marks), as well as evidence of sexual abuse.
Emotional indications of abuse may include: frequent arguing or tension between an elder and their caregiver, unaccountable changes to the elder’s mood or personality, depression, or a general state of unease.
In order to prevent elder abuse, it is helpful to review the testimonies and reviews of any prospective assisted living facilities when doing your initial research. Meet with the staff and get a feel for the quality, atmosphere, and community of the facility, as well as what resources are available to senior residents who are experiencing problems.
To detect abuse that is already taking place, be sure to listen to your loved one and monitor their behavior when in their presence. Also listen to the caregiver and gauge the vibe you notice from the interaction between the two. Intervene if you suspect that any abuse is taking place. And educate your senior loved one about what they can do if they are experiencing abuse.
Professional resources for handling elder abuse include:
- The Administration of Aging
- American Medical Association
- National Clearing House On Abuse In Elder Life
Researching the websites and phone numbers for these facilities will equip you with your options for how to handle any dangerous situations.