Senior citizens living in nursing homes can be susceptible to abuse from caregivers or other residents. Sometimes this abuse goes undetected, especially if the individual is unable to voice the abuse or fears revenge from the abuser.
According to PreventElderAbuse.org, elder mistreatment rates are rising. The Adult Protective Services (APS) reported in a study that there were 253,421 cases of reported abuse in senior citizens in 2006. That is, 832.6 reports for every 100,000 individuals aged 60+ in the United States.
Family members of elderly adults should keep a close contact with their loved ones and be aware of the signs of abuse. Reporting elderly abuse can be a difficult but necessary decision to make. Many organizations provide hotlines that you can call to report suspected mistreatment of an elderly person.
Abuse can take many forms and is oftentimes not evident at plain sight. The first step in recognizing elder mistreatment is to learn about the types and signs of abuse. Below is a list of the most common types of elder abuse and signs to watch for.
Physical abuse: It is the most common and evident type of abuse. Physical abuse is the intentional harm of an elderly person through physical force, causing pain or injury. It includes, but is not limited to, bruising, restraining, hitting, slapping, force-feeding, punching, and more.
Signs of physical abuse include broken bones, bruises, cuts, open wounds, bedsores, and scars.
Psychological abuse: When a caregiver is willingly causing psychological stress or intimidation to an elderly citizen, it is considered psychological abuse. The caregiver may resort to insults, threats, harassment, and similar behavior to emotionally hurt the person. The risk of psychological abuse increases if the elder has memory loss problems, problems with drugs or alcohol, or a history of family violence.
Elders who experience low self-esteem, depression, hopelessness, or sudden mood swings might be going through psychological abuse.
Negligence: It is ignoring the senior citizen’s needs, such as medicine intake, proper nutrition, clothing, and shelter. Concerned family members can identify this irresponsible behavior on the part of the caregiver by watching the elder closely and looking for signs of dehydration, malnutrition, lack of personal hygiene, and other signs.
Senior citizens also experience other types of abuse including sexual abuse, financial exploitation, and healthcare fraud.
If you suspect an elder is being abused or his basic needs are not being met, it is important to take timely measures to avoid the situation from getting worse; reporting a case of elder abuse can save someone’s life. It is important to stay in close contact with the elder and watch for signs of abuse. Sometimes it is best not to confront the abuser directly but to contact the pertinent authorities to investigate the case.
When abuse is discovered and exposed, oftentimes the abused elder will experience difficulty coping with the situation and be overcome by fear, embarrassment, depression, or refusal of help. However, not reporting the abuse can be worse in the long run for the elder.
In cases of emergency where immediate assistance is needed, call 911. In less urgent situations, call the Elder Care Locator’s hotline at 1-800-677-1116 Monday through Friday from 9AM to 8PM EST or the National Adult Protective Services Association in your state by visiting their website and clicking on your state. Once the abuse is reported, be sure to contact legal aid in your area for further assistance.
It is important to be as detailed as possible in your description of the case so that the authorities can better understand the matter and help the elder properly.