Elder Abuse – how to discover and protect yourself, a loved one, or a client

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, “…there are 6 million cases of elder abuse each year and almost 11 percent of all elder abuse cases occur in California, the most of any state.”

While a difficult topic to discuss in any age group, elders are particularly vulnerable to abuse – especially with family members and caregivers.

The best thing you can do for yourself, your loved ones, and clients is to be informed about the types of abuse and how you can report it. (In California, healthcare professionals are bound by law to report any cases of suspected or actual abuse or they themselves might face punishment under the law.)

What types of abuse are there?

  • Physical Abuse – inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior, e.g. slapping, bruising, or restraining by physical or chemical means.
  • Sexual Abuse – non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
  • Neglect – the failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.
  • Exploitation – the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit.
  • Emotional Abuse – inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts, e.g. humiliating, intimidating, or threatening.
  • Abandonment – desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
  • Self-neglect – characterized as the failure of a person to perform essential, self-care tasks and that such failure threatens his/her own health or safety

(Taken from http://www.aoa.gov/AoA_programs/Elder_Rights/EA_Prevention/whatIsEA.aspx)

What are the warning signs of abuse?

While one sign does not necessarily indicate abuse, some tell-tale signs that there could be a problem are:

  • Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
  • Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation.
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect.
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person are also signs.

Most importantly, be alert. The suffering is often in silence. If you notice changes in a senior’s personality or behavior, you should start to question what is going on.

(Taken from http://www.aoa.gov/AoA_programs/Elder_Rights/EA_Prevention/whatIsEA.aspx)

I suspect elder abuse in myself or someone else – what can I do?

If the danger is immediate, call 911.

If the danger is not immediate, but you suspect that abuse has occurred or is occurring, please tell someone. To report elder abuse, contact the Adult Protective Services (APS) agency in the state where the elder resides. You can find the APS reporting number for each state by:

  • 1-800-677-1116 or going to http://eldercare.gov/Eldercare.NET/Public/Index.aspx

If you have been the victim of abuse, exploitation, or neglect, you are not alone. Many people care and can help. Please tell your doctor, a friend, or a family member you trust, or call the Eldercare Locator help line immediately. The Eldercare Locator is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

If you suspect nursing home abuse, call your Long Term Care Obundsman (http://www.ltcombudsman.org/contact).

(Taken from http://www.aoa.gov/AoA_programs/Elder_Rights/EA_Prevention/WhatToDo.aspx)