As we get older, we naturally need more help taking care of ourselves. Many family members take on caregiving for their elderly relatives to ensure that they maintain safety and good quality of life. Not everyone can be a good caregiver, however, and many seniors end up in care facilities with people whose job it is to care for them.
While we’d all like to believe that everyone working in these facilities or caring for their relatives at home has the best intentions and the skills needed to care for the elderly, that’s not always the case. Elder abuse is a pervasive problem that happens more often than we realize.
Seniors, especially those with cognitive problems, can’t always advocate for themselves. It’s important to know how to spot the signs of elder abuse so you can step in when needed.
Forms of Elder Abuse
Elder abuse can take many forms. Although elder abuse can and does take place in established care facilities, any caregiver is capable of abusing the seniors they care for. Even some seniors who still live independently are experiencing abuse from those who claim to be helping them.
Some forms of elder abuse include:
- Neglect: Not attending to the essential needs of seniors, including food, water, healthcare, safety, comfort, hygiene, and emotional needs.
- Financial abuse: Taking advantage of the elderly and stealing their money or using it inappropriately.
- Emotional abuse: Causing fear, distress, or emotional pain intentionally. Threats, humiliation, name-calling, and yelling all fall into this category.
- Physical abuse: Intentionally causing pain or injury by hitting, kicking, allowing objects to fall on an elderly person, or restraining them in an abusive manner.
- Sexual abuse: Non-consensual sexual contact, including among elderly people who cannot give consent, such as those with memory problems.
- Self-neglect: Many elderly people don’t seek out help when they need it. They may refuse to believe they can no longer care for themselves and neglect their own essential needs.
Facts and Statistics Regarding Nursing Home Abuse
The statistics on nursing home abuse are alarming. One in 10 Americans over the age of sixty have been victims of elder abuse and self-reported abuse rates among staff members at nursing homes are very high. Two out of three staff members said they had abused a resident in the last year, according to the WHO.
For anyone with a loved one in a care facility, these statistics are terrifying. Placing a loved one in a facility is difficult enough, even if you know they are being well-cared for. Knowing that they could be facing abuse makes it much worse. Even with frequent visits, it isn’t always obvious when someone is being abused, especially if they have cognitive or communication problems.
Physical & Behavioral Signs of Elder Abuse
Knowing that elder abuse is common isn’t enough. It’s important to learn and recognize the physical and behavioral signs of abuse so that you can take action when necessary. Unfortunately, many seniors are abused by family members, so it’s important to keep an eye out for signs of abuse even among older people who are not living in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
Some physical signs include:
- Poor hygiene
- Unhealthy living environment
- Unexplained injuries
- Unusual weight loss
- Lack of access to medical aids
Behavioral signs can include:
- Changes in sleep patterns
Of course, it’s important to understand the context and to get the facts before reporting someone for abuse. But if you think a senior may be in immediate danger, don’t hesitate to call 911.
What You Can Do
We all deserve to be safe and well cared for in our old age. It’s important for everyone to look out for the seniors in their lives and help ensure that they have the care and help they need.
The most important thing you can do is to keep your eyes open and speak up when necessary. If you notice that your neighbor isn’t able to get around very well, ask if they need help. If you notice a loved one showing signs of abuse in a care facility, ask them about how they are being treated.
You should feel the responsibility to speak up and report the problem if you see signs of elder abuse. It can be difficult to question those who provide caregiving and help to seniors, but protecting the elderly is more important than politeness.
Guest Author Bio
With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.