With an increasing population of elderly as a result of the Baby Boom generation, statistics show that elder abuse is more prevalent than ever. According to the Administration on Aging every year an estimated 2.1 million older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. And that’s only part of the picture: Experts believe that for every case of elder abuse or neglect reported, as many as five cases go unreported. One study recognized that for every case of elder abuse reported to agencies nearly 25 go unreported!
You might be surprised to know that most abusers are not professional caregivers. Most elder abusers are family members of the abused.
Elder abuse will happen, but everyone can act to protect seniors.
Abuse of an elderly person take many forms. Elder abuse takes many forms, be aggressive or non-responsive in nature, but can be distilled down to three main categories: physical, mental or financial. If you observe any blatant signs of abuse — name-calling, threats, intimate contact, unreasonable restraints, withholding of food or medication, etc. — you should take immediate steps to stop it.
Elder abuse, however, is rarely that obvious.
Many of the conditions and events listed below may be caused by occurrences unrelated to abuse, but then again maybe your relative is being abused. Use this basic elder abuse checklist to quantify possible signs. If you notice the following occurrences or conditions, it is important to carefully monitor your relative’s care or alert the authorities. To report suspected abuse, contact your local adult protective services agency. For state reporting numbers, call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116.
Be mindful that an accusation or even suggestion of elder abuse is a very serious thing, and should not be undertaken lightly or carelessly.
Physical or mental abuse may be causing the following conditions:
Depression or withdrawal
Hesitation to talk openly
Fearfulness of caregivers
Confusing or contradictory statements by an otherwise competent senior
Resignation or denial of conditions
Recurring or unexplained injuries
A combination of new and old injuries
Implausible explanations of injuries or conditions
Denial of an injured state
Injuries without underlying diseases, or incompatible with medical history, including cuts, lacerations, puncture wounds, bruises, welts or discoloration
Any injury that looks like it may be have been caused by cigarettes, caustics, acids, friction from ropes or chains or contact with other objects
Poorly treated or untreated injuries
Injuries in areas usually covered by clothing
Poor skin condition/poor skin hygiene/lice
Absence of hair and/or hemorrhaging below the scalp
Dehydration or malnutrition that is unrelated to illness
Loss of weight
Soiled clothing or bedding
An environment that is excessively dirty or smells of feces or urine
Financial abuse may be causing the following conditions:
A sudden lack of knowledge about financial matters
A sudden refusal to make financial decisions or pay bills without consulting another person
Unusual or inappropriate banking activity
Signatures on your relative’s checks or other financial documents, particularly when your relative can no longer write
The creation of a power of attorney or will, when your relative is incapacitated
Numerous unpaid bills and overdue rent when someone is supposed to be handling your relative’s finances
Caregiver behavior that should raise suspicion of abuse includes:
The caregiver does not allow your relative to speak for herself
The caregiver does not allow your relative to visit with others out of the caregiver’s presence
The caregiver expresses that your relative’s injuries or undesirable behavior is deliberate or self-inflicted
The caregiver has a history of abusing others
The caregiver has problems with alcohol or drugs
The caregiver is inappropriately affectionate or sexual
The caregiver restricts the activity of or isolates your relative
The caregiver’s explanation of an injury or incident conflicts with your relative’s account
The caregiver is unwilling or reluctant to comply with instructions from other care providers
The caregiver is inappropriately defensive when asked to explain an injury or occurrence
The caregiver has unjustified control of your relative’s finances
The caregiver refuses services that your relative needs
The caregiver is unusually concerned about the amount of money being expended on your relative’s care
Please protect seniors and join us in taking a stand against elder abuse this year! Visit SRAction.org and commit to do something extra this year to raise awareness in your community about elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation!