The World Health Organization defines Elder Abuse as, “a violation of human rights and a significant cause of illness, injury, loss of productivity, isolation and despair”. This devastating problem is understood as the intentional cause of harm, or serious risk of harm, to a vulnerable senior by a caregiver or other person in a trusted position. There are several types of abuse, all stemming from someone, usually a caregiver, taking advantage of the vulnerability of another.
Though an accurate number of people impacted by this abuse is not clear, it appears that females are abused at a higher rate than males, and the older one is, the greater the likelihood they will experience some form of abuse. Incidents of abuse are often unreported or underreported. Victims may not be able to communicate what has happened to them or they may not want to get their caregiver in trouble, 90% of whom are family members.
How do you know if someone you care about is experiencing any form of abuse? The first step is knowledge and awareness. Educating yourself on the different types of abuse, and the signs of abuse will help you identify if this is a problem for your loved one and ease the reporting process. Here are different types of abuse as described by the National Center on Elder Abuse:
- Physical Abuse —Inflicting, or threatening to inflict, physical pain or injury on a vulnerable elder, or depriving them of a basic need.
- Emotional Abuse—Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts.
- Sexual Abuse—Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind, coercing an elder to witness sexual behaviors.
- Exploitation—Illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a vulnerable elder.
- Neglect—Refusal or failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care or protection for a vulnerable elder.
- Abandonment—The desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
Some Signs Of Possible Elder Abuse
These are some very common signs of elder abuse you can be on the lookout for:
- Bruises, broken bones, abrasions and obvious physical trauma
- Unexplained changes in personality, emotion, or alertness
- Sudden change in financial situation may indicate exploitation
- Bedsores, poor hygiene, improper medication usage, or extreme weight loss
- Observation of caregivers using threats and power to control the elder
- Obvious tension and conflict between the elder and their caregiver
It is not uncommon for a victim to suffer more than one type of abuse. Though some of these signs may also be indications of other medical issues and/or increased dementia, it is important to question, follow through, and report concerns of abuse. Professionals at Adult Protective Service are trained in assessing abuse and will help navigate the resources in place to protect the elderly. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out and get support.