Just imagine for a moment – you’re a senior living in a nursing home, in an assisted living facility, or at home with a professional caregiver. It’s difficult to get around and you aren’t as sharp as you used to be. You rely on people you don’t even know to take care of you. How can elder abuse be prevented?
Types of Elder Abuse and Their Symptoms
Seniors that find themselves in situations like these are vulnerable in a number of ways. Elder abuse is a real and serious problem. So, what can you do to prevent it?
The first thing you can do to help is to learn the definition of elderly abuse and recognize the signs and symptoms.
Believe it or not, elderly abuse is more than just physical harm. Elder abuse is physical, verbal, sexual, and financial. Caregiver neglect is also a form of elder abuse and is just as serious as the others, if not more so.
- Bruising on the skin, especially in the form of hand prints
- Unexplained cuts, burns, or other injuries
- Flinching with any physical contact
- Refusal to get medical help for injuries
Verbal abuse can be difficult to notice because it most likely doesn’t happen when others are around, and it leaves no physical evidence behind. But, there are a few signs to look for. Here they are:
- The older adult begins to isolate themselves
- Shows changes in behavior
- Avoids certain people and events
- Has irrational fears and suspicions
Seniors are also at risk of being taken advantage of sexually. This is especially true when they have physical and mental ailments. Here are a few major red flags to look out for:
- Vaginal and/or anal bleeding
- Bloody and/or torn underwear
- Bruises on the breasts and/or buttocks
This is a form of elder abuse we’ve discussed on this blog, specifically online and phone scams that use social engineering to confuse and frighten the elderly into making harmful financial transactions. Seniors can suffer from diminished mental capabilities and scammers take advantage of these deficiencies to extort money from them.
Here are the signs that you should be on the lookout for:
- Unexplained bank account withdrawals and disappearing money
- Forged signatures on checks
- Changes in legal documents, such as wills and bank accounts
- Sudden concern and/or worry expressed about finances by senior
- The senior starts a relationship/friendship with a new companion, either online or in person, that frequently contacts them and asks for information. They might make demands for money immediately or request their investment in a company (that probably doesn’t exist)
The elderly are often in a position where they rely on others to take care of them. They need people who can keep them well fed, clean, and more. A healthcare professional cares for a senior when it becomes too much work for the family and they need some help.
Whether the senior is living at home, in an assisted living facility, or a nursing home, it should be a safe, clean, and friendly environment. But, due to a lack of professionalism or understaffing (in assisted living or nursing homes), the result can be elder neglect.
- Increased weight loss
- Poor hygiene such as not bathing, messy hair, not brushing their teeth, etc.
- Lack of needed medical aids such as hearing aids, walker, or even medications
- Being left unsupervised if the senior has dementia
- Sunken facial features
How Can Elder Abuse Be Prevented?
If your elderly family member is being cared for by a professional nurse or caregiver, you might think that preventing elder abuse is out of your control. However, care by licensed caregivers and medical professionals by no means guarantees the safety of your loved one.
Get involved and communicate with the caregiving team! You eliminate these risks from the start.
Additionally, with this article, we have already done the first and most important step in preventing elder abuse: learning the signs and symptoms. Now that you know what you should be looking for, here are some preventative measures you can take to stop elder abuse before it begins.
Build and maintain good relationships
It can also help to build and maintain good relationships with the staff as well. By doing so, this ensures your elderly family member gets the quality care they need. Call and visit often, and get to know the caregivers and staff (if applicable) as well as you can. This will go a long way in preventing elder abuse.
Encourage them to be social, attend events, and stay active
Humans are naturally social creatures, and isolation can lead to a lot of problems such as depression and loneliness, which makes them more susceptible to abuse.
Encourage them to attend events put together by a local senior center, to go to church services if they’re religious, or to go out to lunch with family.
Help them find volunteer opportunities that can make them feel connected to their community and give them a sense of accomplishment by doing good.
Another thing that can help prevent abuse is encouraging them to stay active. There are a variety of low-impact exercise options available to seniors to help maintain their health. Just going for a walk, if they are able, can boost their energy, keep their mind sharp, and thus make them more independent.
If they don’t have to rely as heavily on others, this can really go a long way in cutting abuse off from the source. Plus, they can defend themselves better if they are stronger.
Keep up to date about their financial situation
Financial abuse can go unnoticed if the senior is unwilling or unable to communicate with their family about it. Keep an eye on their bank account and any financial or legal documents.
Encourage your elderly family member to keep up with their own finances and if they need help with it, make sure they get help from a family member they can trust.
Also, be sure to warn your elderly family member of solicitors. Stay up to date on reports of scams so you know what to watch out for. Just recently, a Duke Energy scam has made the rounds in North Carolina.
Report all abuse to the proper authorities
Finally, the best way to prevent future abuse is to stop it at its source. Do not hesitate to report elder abuse.
If your family member is in immediate or life-threatening danger, call the police or 911. If the abuse not life-threatening, contact your local adult protective services branch. Licensed home care agencies, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes are mandated reporters and are required to report all signs of abuse.
You can also help raise awareness of elder abuse by joining support groups and spreading the word.