What is Elder Abuse – What are the Signs
Most people are familiar with Child Abuse but not everyone understands that all states have the same sort of laws against Elder Abuse. An elderly person can be just as vulnerable to abuse as a child, and even more so if they have Alzheimer’s or dementia. Most elderly folks have loving caregivers and family members who are responsible for their care, but there are always the few people who can be just as neglectful or cruel to the elderly as they are to children.
Elder Abuse can be seen in many different ways including physical, financial, sexual or emotional and refers to any intentional, knowing or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.
Middle-Late Stage Alzheimer’s patients can be exceptionally vulnerable as they have few memories of the people who care for them. The lack of memory regarding abusive incidents prevents them from telling someone or seeking help. An Alzheimer’s patient might trust someone who could actually put him in danger. Without memory of past behavior by people around them, the mid-stage Alzheimer’s patient may show blurred judgment.
On a visit to the Group Home to see my mom one spring day, I was told by the nursing home staff that she had already been checked-out a few hours earlier by her son. I already knew both of my brothers were at work, (her only two sons) neither of them had taken my mother. On that note, I began to panic. As I questioned the staff further, they told me that when the young man arrived and asserted his identity, Mom–verified his assertion.
After several horrified hours, spent searching for my kidnapped mother, she finally returned to the “group home” with the son of her long deceased husband. This young man came from another state, my mother had only met him once, and she had no idea who he was. Yet, she had freely agreed to leave with him on his word that he was her son, and even verified the fact to the nursing-home staff. From that day forward– Mom was no longer allowed to leave the “group home” with anyone unless I was called and notified first.
Elder Abuse is most often physical. And, it is no small problem when a person is very old and frail. Usually, there will be physical signs of abuse such as abrasions, broken bones, burns or bruising. But often, there will be no signs other than the elderly persons fear of the caregiver or the person abusing them.
You might be alerted to Elder Abuse which is sexual by bruising around genital areas. The elderly person might also appear more withdrawn than usual, cowering or showing signs of depression. Certainly, depression and withdrawal might also be a sign of Elder Abuse which is inflicted emotionally. It doesn’t leave physical scars but leaves the patient frightened and beaten-down and in emotional distress.
Control issues can also be associated with emotional abuse when the Elderly person endures repeated name-calling and disparaging remarks and put-downs. Eventually the tormented person is beaten-down with sadness and despair. This situation might present itself as constant arguing and fighting. A person with Alzheimer’s or Dementia would be agitated and totally confused in this circumstance.
Neglect can often be seen in physical ways and is Elder Abuse as much as a physical beating. Yet the signs of neglect might include, bedsores, weight-loss, dirty clothing, unclean hair or nails. Something as simple as ignoring an elderly persons dental hygiene, can lead to infection and severe health issues.
For the Alzheimer’s and Dementia patient neglect can also include failing to remove their car when they can no longer drive safely. Failing to remove weapons or other dangers from the patient’s living area, sewing machine, riding lawn mower, circular or jig-saws, etc. Failing to keep doors locked so that the patient can not wander away and get lost or worse.
Financial Abuse is no small matter for the elderly, either, especially in the case of Alzheimer’s and dementia where patients have often given over their control through Powers of Attorney to a loved one or caregiver.
My own Mother was defrauded of thousands of dollars before we ever became aware. All purported by a distant family member that we would never have suspected.
If you know an elderly person and suspect any sort of abuse, be aware and investigate. Mention your concern to others! Don’t keep it a secret!
If you believe the person is in immediate danger– call 911.
Check resources as shown below or call Adult Protective Services from your local phone book.
National Center on Elder abuse
Foscam FI9821W V2 Wireless/Wired Pan/Tilt IP CameraElder Abuse Detection and InterventionStem Innovation WRM-WA0-01iZON 2.0 Wi-Fi Video Monitor (White)Domestic Violence: Intersectionality and Culturally Competent PracticeAn Age for Justice: Confronting Elder Abuse in AmericaThe Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to recognize it and how to respond