With elder abuse being a hot topic in the news these days, it is perhaps prudent to examine this subject in more detail so that you can learn to recognise the symptoms and be more proactive in preventing such atrocities in our communities. This is a two part article where first we will explore what elder abuse is and how to recognise it, and in the next article, we will discuss how to be proactive about it and how to report incidents in your community or home.
Our seniors are more frail and unable to stand up to bullying or to retaliate to unfair treatment. Often their aging condition makes for trying times with the caregiver and some abuse may be unintentional, but it is still abuse. Sadly millions of cases go unreported each year and we must be proactive and learn the signs and how to act on it.
Abuse comes in many forms and can be done by virtually anybody who comes into contact with the senior person, often close family or relatives. Sadly even so-called professional caregivers in trusted facilities have been found guilty.
- Physical abuse includes pushing and shoving and also the inappropriate use of restraints often causing bruising and injury of some form.
- Emotional abuse can be verbal and nonverbal. Verbal abuse includes yelling and shouting, humiliating or constantly blaming the individual. Nonverbal would mean ignoring, using threatening gestures and isolating the person or prohibiting activities.
- Financial abuse includes scam artists as well as anyone close to the senior who might abuse financial privileges in any way. This is a vast field of abuse ranging from stolen cash, income checks, identity theft and forging of signatures.
- Sexual abuse not only means physical sexual misconduct, but also forcing one to watch pornographic material either on TV or in print.
- Neglect. More than half of all abuse cases reported involve the failure of the caregiver, whether intentional or not, to fulfil the expected obligation and satisfying the needs of the elder.
- Healthcare Fraud happens when one charges for a service but does provide it. It also involves health insurance fraud, overcharging medical procedures and getting kick backs for referrals to other health care providers.
Seeing the signs of suspected abuse is not always easy. Often the wariness or self explained injuries from the elder may make us believe that all is in order. However if you start to notice certain clusters of symptoms, you should be aware and become pro-active.
- be suspicious when a caregiver refuses to let be alone with the elder.
- symmetrical injuries like bruises on the arms or restrain marks on the wrists.
- increase in general injuries and unexplained broken bones.
- unusual behaviour from the elder like rocking, sucking or mumbling often attributed to dementia.
- In sexual abuse watch out for blood stained bed sheets and clothing and bruising of the breasts or genitals.
- Be suspicious of a diagnosis of venereal diseases.
- Symptoms of neglect include, poor hygiene, loss of weight, dirty living environment, bed sores, and unsafe living conditions
- With financial abuse watch out for sudden changes in power of attorney, missing valuables and cash, an unexpected change in the financial situation of the elder. Look out for unnecessary good and services being provided as well as financial activities beyond the capability of the senior like ATM withdrawals far from the home.
This is a vast topic and it is impossible to cover all aspects in such a short space. If you would like more information please visit www.helpguide.org and search elder abuse. Lets all become more aware and put a stop to this insane cruelty to our Seniors.
Thistlecreek Health Care Ltd.
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