Often a silent problem, elder abuse affects at least 1 in 10 adults in the United States. Defined as actions or inactions that can cause harm to adults above 60, elder abuse commonly occurs in the home of the victims. Many unfortunately stay silent either out of fear or to protect their abuser who could be a family member or someone else they care about.
Abuse in any form is deplorable, and everyone has a role to play in protecting the older adults around us from it. Identifying the types of elder abuse can help you spot the signs as early as possible and put a quick end to such cases of abuse.
Types of Abuse
- Physical Abuse
This includes hitting, shoving, slapping, kicking, biting, and/or other physical violence. Indications of such abuse could include:
- Broken bones
- Emotional Abuse
Refers to psychological or mental abuse that inflicts feelings of distress or fear in the person. It includes intimidation, verbal insults like name-calling, threats to exert control on the victim, and humiliation. Indications of such abuse could include:
- Mood swings
- Avoidance with friends and family
- Changes in eating and sleeping routines
- Changes in personality ie. More withdrawn
- Sexual Abuse
Refers to non-consensual sexual contact with an older adult and sexually inappropriate comments. Indications of such abuse could include:
- Bruise on genitals
- Bleeding from genitals
- Pain or discomfort when sitting or walking
- Financial Exploitation
Refers to taking or misusing the person’s monetary assets without their permission. This may occur under coercion. Examples of financial abuse include tricking the older adult into signing forms that transfer ownership of houses, bank accounts, and investments, or forcing them to write the aggressor into a new will.
Failing to properly care for someone eventually resulting in harm also constitutes abuse. This can be either intentional or unintentional. For instance, forgetting to give the older adult their medication which resulted in some form of harm like falling ill is unintentional neglect. Purposefully withholding food would be intentional neglect. Indications of such abuse could include:
- Poor personal hygiene ie.Unclean clothing
- Weight loss
- Untreated injuries
Refers to when a caregiver deserts the older person they are caring for. They would leave the person at a hospital or nursing home without making the required arrangements and documentation, or they may even leave them at the store.
If the above signs sound like something you are currently experiencing, you could be a victim of elder abuse. You should seek help immediately. Always remember that it is your right to feel and be safe, so there is nothing about seeking help.
Here are some steps you should take.
- In cases of life-threatening danger, call the police at 9-1-1.
- If you suspect yourself to be suffering from elder abuse, call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116. They will provide you with the information you need on local resources.
- If you are residing in a retirement community and you suspect a team member to be an aggressor, report your concerns to the executive director. In these communities, senior living safety and security are at the top of their priorities, so rest assured that your case will be reviewed and addressed.