Elder abuse is a national growing epidemic that affects several hundred thousand Senior citizens every year. A recent Readers Digest article using data from a 2002 study performed by the National Research Council states that one to two million Americans 65 and older have been injured, exploited or otherwise mistreatd by someone on whom they depended for care or protection.
The purpose of this post is to help people understand the problem and how to fix it. If you suspect elder abuse is happening to a relative or friend, or if you are a victim of abuse, there are several resources listed at the end of this post with a lot more information. Make sure it gets reported to the proper authorities.
The information provided below is for informational pusposes only to help make others aware of elder abuse. More detailed information about elder abuse can be found from The National Center for Elder Abuse (NCEA), Medline Plus and Helpguide.org. There are also more resources listed below to help report it and how to avoid it.
Some of the conditions of elder abuse include:
- Physical Abuse
- Sexual Abuse
- Emotional or Psychological Abuse
- Neglect or Self-Neglect
- Financial or Material Exploitation
Physical abuse is force or violence that results in bodily injury, pain or impairment, and can include assault, battery and inappropriate restraint.
Some signs of physical abuse include (but aren’t limited to):
- bruises, welts, lacerations or burns (including rope burns or other signs of being restrained)
- internal injuries or bleeding
- fractures, sprains, dislocations or broken bones
- open wounds, cuts, punctures or untreated injuries
- not receiving medications properly (too little or not at all)
- signs of traumatic tooth or hair loss
- sudden changes in behavior and the caregiver’s refusal to allow visitors to be seen alone
- the victim reports being hit, slapped, kicked or otherwise physically mistreated
Sexual abuse is sexual contact with any person incapable of giving consent, which includes unwanted touching, rape, sodomy, forced nudity or taking sexually explicit photographs.
Some signs of Sexual Abuse include (but are not limited to):
- bruises around the breasts or genital area
- inexplicable venereal disease or genital infections
- inexplicable vaginal or anal bleeding
- torn, stained or bloody undergarments
- has difficulty walking or sitting
- the victim reports being sexually assaulted or raped
Emotional or Psychological Abuse
Emotional or Psychological Abuse is the infliction or anguish, pain or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts. It can include verbal assaults, insults, threats or intimidation, humiliation and harassment. Treating an elder like an infant, isolation from their family, friends or regular activities, enforced social isolation or giving an older person the silent treatment are also examples of emotional/phychological abuse.
Some signs of Emotional or Psychological Abuse include (but are not limited to):
- being emotionally upset or agitated
- the elder has trouble sleeping
- being extremely withdrawn, non communicative or non responsive
- unusual behavior that’s usually attributed to dementia (such as sucking, biting, rocking, etc.)
- substantial weight loss or gain not attributed to other causes
- the elder shows fear or cowers in the presence of the abuser
- the victim reports being verbally or emotionally mistreated
Neglect and Self-neglect
Neglect is the refusal or failure to fulfill any part of a person’s obligations or duties to an elder. It may also include the failure of a person who is financially responsible to pay for necessary home care services, and failure of the in-home service provider to provide the necessary care. Typical signs of neglect can include failure to provide an elderly person food, water, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medication, comfort, personal safety or other necessary essentials as required.
Self-Neglect is the behavior of an elderly person that threatens his or her own safety. It can be a refusal to provide themselves with adequate food, water, clothing, shelter, hygiene, medicine and other safety precautions.
Some signs of Neglect and/or Self-Neglect include (but are not limited to):
- dehydration, malnutrition, untreated or improperly attended medical conditions, and poor personal hygiene
- hazardous or unsafe living conditions/arrangements (e.g., improper wiring, no indoor plumbing, no heat, no running water)
- unsanitary or unclean living quarters (e.g., animal/insect infestation, no functioning toilet, fecal/urine smell)
- inappropriate and/or inadequate clothing, lack of the necessary medical aids (eyeglasses, hearing aids, dentures etc.)
- grossly inadequate housing or homelessness
- the victim reports being mistreated
Deserting an elderly person by someone who has assumed responsibility for providing care or by a person with physical custody of an elder is defined as Abandonment.
Some signs and symptoms include (but are not limited to):
- desertion of an elder at a hospital, nursing facility or similar institution
- desertion of an elder at a shopping center or other public location
- the victim reports being abandoned.
Financial or Material Exploitation
The illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property or assets is financial or material exploitation. Cashing an elder’s checks without permission or authorization, forging a signature, misusing or stealing an elder’s money or possessions, coercing or deceiving an elder into signing any document such as a contract or will, or the improper use of conservatorship, guardianship or power of attorney can be Financial or Material Exploitation.
Some signs and symptoms include (but are not limited to):
- taking an elders money or possessions
- sudden changes in a bank account, including unexplained withdrawals of large sums of money by a person accompanying the elder
- inclusion of additional names on an elders bank signature card
- unauthorized withdrawals of the elder’s funds
- abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents
- unexplainable disappearances of funds or other valuable possessions
- substandard care provided or bills being unpaid irregardless of the availability of adequate financial resources
- forging signatures on financial transactions or for titles to their possessions
- relatives suddenly appearing to claim their rights to an elder’s affairs or possessions
- sudden transfers of assets to a family member of someone outside of the family purposely including services that aren’t necessary
- the victim reports of financial exploitation
If you have a sufficient reason to suspect elder abuse, you should report it immediately. Below are some resources to help report and understand elder abuse:
The Eldercare Locator is a public service of the U.S Administration on Aging – http://www.eldercare.gov/Eldercare/Public/Home.asp –
They are also available by calling 1-800-677-1116 weekdays from 9 a.m to 8 p.m. eastern time.
National Adult Protective Services Association – providing help and hope to America’s vulnerable adults – http://www.apsnetwork.org/
State elder abuse helplines and hotlines from the National Center on Elder Abuse – http://www.elderabusecenter.org/default.cfm?p=statehotlines.cfm
National Long Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center – http://www.ltcombudsman.org/static_pages/ombudsmen.cfm – An Ombudsman is an advocate for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes and assisted living facilities.
The U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA) from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services – http://www.aoa.gov/
Elder Legal Assistance from The Administration on Aging (AoA) – http://www.aoa.gov/eldfam/elder_rights/legal_assistance/legal_hotline.asp
National Domestic Violence Hotline – http://www.ndvh.org/ – They are also available by calling 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
Housing choices – if Nursing home problems occur from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) – http://www.aarp.org/families/housing_choices/
Fraud prevention tips for consumers from The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) – http://www.cms.hhs.gov/FraudAbuseforConsumers/05_Tips_doc.asp
A directory of State and Local Government offices from Statelocalgov.net – http://www.statelocalgov.net/
Senior Citizens’ resources from USA.gov – http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Seniors.shtml
National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) – http://www.preventelderabuse.org/index.html
Report them to the hospital or the victims Doctor
Report them to your local law enforcement agency
Report them to your local public health agency