warning signs of elder abuse

How to Detect and Prevent Elder Abuse

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Elder Abuse Can Be Prevented

In both institutional settings and adult family member’s homes, people directly responsible for the care of the elderly can sometimes take advantage of them. As much as we’d hope to avoid it, sometimes the demands of caregiving and the needs of the senior can create an environment where abuse does occur.

For example, caregivers in institutional settings can be abusive if the nursing home staff lacks proper training or facilitates poor working conditions. Nonprofessional caregivers such as relatives, friends, and spouses can become abusive under the stress of taking care of a senior loved one.

In cases such as these, the demands of caring for an aging senior can be too much to handle and lead to mental and physical health problems, which could lead to a burnt out, impatient caregiver who is more prone to neglect or other forms of abuse.

Read on to learn the warning signs of elder abuse so you can prevent it from happening to your aging loved one.

Physical Signs That Elder Abuse May Be Occurring

As the elderly grow older and become more physically frail, they often become more and more incapable of protecting themselves from physical harm and standing up to bullying behavior. Unfortunately, a lack of physical and cognitive abilities makes seniors easy prey for depraved individuals.

Warning signs of physical abuse of the elderly may include unexplainable bruises, wounds, or broken bones. Repeated unexplained wounds should be taken seriously, no matter the severity of the wound.

Emotional Abuse of Senior Loved Ones

If you suspect your elderly loved one is being hurt but can’t see any physical evidence, then they might be an unfortunate victim of emotional, not physical abuse. Caregivers can cause distress to the elderly by yelling or threatening, humiliation and ridicule, isolating them from friends or activities, and habitually blaming or scapegoating.

Emotional abuse can be harder to detect, but there are definite warning signs. Increasingly different behavior from the senior that mimics dementia, like rocking the body or mumbling to themselves is typically a good indicator that emotional abuse could be present.

Neglect of Seniors in Caregiving Situations

Abuse doesn’t always come in the form of yelling or hitting of a senior loved one. On the other end of the spectrum, negligence is another form of elder abuse that you should know the warning signs for.

If the senior is being ignored for long periods of time, you’ll certainly see the warning signs. These may include the following: weight loss caused by malnutrition and dehydration, bedsores or other untreated physical ailments, lack of proper hygiene from not being bathed regularly, soiled garments or bedding, bug infestations, and hazardous or unsanitary living conditions.

Signs of Financial Abuse of the Elderly

The elderly are also preyed upon financially in many instances. Financial trickery can come in the form of identity theft, stealing money or household items, scamming, or other types of fraud.

Be aware of any significant withdrawals from the elder’s account, any sudden changes in wills or power of attorney, failing to pay bills, unnecessary purchases of services or goods, missing cash, insufficient funds, and any addition of names to the senior’s credit card or accounts.

Other Warning Signs of Elder Abuse

Unfortunately, the warning signs of elder abuse are often mistaken for dementia or the mental deterioration that may come along with aging. Be aware of increased tension or arguments between the senior and caregiver. Further, your elderly loved one might start behaving differently, becoming more withdrawn and less social.

It’s important to listen to the senior and to intervene as soon as possible. Keep an eye on medication levels and the dates on prescription bottles or medication administration checklists. Check bank accounts and credit card statements for unauthorized purchases regularly.

Learn these signs and then spread awareness to others who may also be responsible for checking on the senior.

What to Do When a Senior Loved One Is Being Abused

It’s important to know the warning signs of elder abuse so you can rest more easily, knowing your elderly loved one is in good hands. If you suspect elder abuse, here are a few things that you can do.

First, be sure to always document the warning signs: take photos of injuries, take notes of changes in behavior, and get written statements from additional victims or other witnesses, if and when possible. If the senior is being abused in a facility, then contact your long-term care ombudsman. They are professionals who will investigate the claims and take the proper actions in response. For severe cases (or if you know the senior will be harmed again), call 911.


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