They may abuse them verbally, physically or sexually. Older adults may also be at risk of having their finances exploited. Learning more about elderly abuse can help you prevent it or speak up if you notice that it’s happening.
According to the National Council on Aging, at least 1 in 10 adults over the age of 60 in the U.S. have suffered from abuse. But experts believe that the number could be much higher because the abuse often goes unreported.
Like many types of abuse, about 60 percent of the cases of elderly abuse and neglect involve a family member. The abuser is often the victim’s child or spouse.
Caregivers may experience stress and burnout from being responsible for someone who needs so much help. As older adults lose their memory and cognitive capacity, they may be difficult to talk to. They may be confused. They could even become angry or aggressive.
This doesn’t mean that it’s ok for anyone to commit elder abuse or neglect. But it does highlight the fact that family members may need some help with their caregiving obligations. It also underscores the importance of finding high-quality, reliable and compassionate care.
• Women and men have the same risk of abuse.
• More than 64 percent of staff at institutional facilities have committed elder abuse.
• Sexual abuse is the least frequently reported type of elder abuse.
• Lack of money to pay for care increases the risk of abuse.
• Older adults who don’t have proper access to care may neglect their own needs.
Elder abuse can take many forms, including the following:
• Physical abuse – Intentional force used against a person, which may involve hitting, pushing, inappropriate use of medication, confinement or restraint
• Emotional abuse – Inflicting psychological distress through humiliation, yelling, making threats, blaming, ignoring or isolating the victim
• Sexual abuse – Sexual contact, forcing someone to watch pornographic material or coercing someone into undressing without their consent
• Neglect – Disregarding the individual’s needs, intentionally or unintentionally
• Financial abuse – Misusing the elder’s accounts, stealing money, forging signatures or engaging in identity theft
• Healthcare fraud – Unethical health care providers may charge for health care services that they don’t provide, under or over-medicate, overcharge for remedies or recommend unnecessary remedies
It’s not always easy to identify signs of elder abuse and neglect. Symptoms of dementia and other medical conditions can cover up the symptoms of elder abuse. For example, an older adult who is weak may bump into furniture or have frequent falls. They have thin skin and bruise easily. How can you tell if those bruises are self-inflicted or the result of abuse?
• Unexplained lesions on the body, especially if they occur symmetrically
• Broken bones, fractures or sprains
• Signs of restraint, such as rope burns
• Broken eyeglasses
• Blood in the underclothing
• Genital or anal bleeding
Elderly emotional abuse signs are often harder to recognize. Caregivers may act differently in public than they do when they’re alone with an adult in their care. If you witness a caregiver belittling or threatening an older adult, you might want to stay vigilant and look for more signs of elder abuse or neglect.
One of the most common elderly emotional abuse signs is the development of dementia symptoms when the individual does not have dementia. Older adults who experience emotional abuse or neglect may act like frightened children and mumble, rock or suck their thumbs.
• Untreated medical conditions
• Lack of hygiene
• Wearing inappropriate clothing for the climate
• Hazardous or filthy living conditions
Elderly adults may neglect their self-care if they don’t have someone looking out for them. It’s important to check in on the older loved ones in your life. Many elderly adults don’t want to be a burden on someone else, but they require care if they’re neglecting themselves.
Elder abuse or neglect can have serious physical and psychological consequences. Physical injuries, such as broken bones, can be debilitating. But the emotional effects can be just as long-lasting and devastating.
Elderly abuse and neglect often go unnoticed and unreported. Victims may be afraid to tell anyone because they are ashamed or have been threatened. Sometimes, an older adult’s loved ones are afraid to speak up about potential abuse or neglect, especially if the perpetrator is a family member.
However, it’s essential to get help if you suspect elderly abuse and neglect. Elder abuse effects can be serious and life-threatening. Loved ones should ensure that the elders in their life have access to quality care. Caregivers who are becoming overwhelmed by their situation should seek support.
Get in contact with your loved one as often as possible. Even if they refuse your help or avoid talking to you, it’s important to check in. Working with a reputable care provider, such as Blue Moon Senior Counseling, can also help your elderly loved ones stay safe.