Learn More About Elder Abuse: Do You Know the Facts?

Oct 10, 2017

Learn More About Elder Abuse: Do You Know the Facts?

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Elder abuse is more common than one might think. In fact, the National Center on Elder Abuse reports that about 10% of senior citizens suffer from elder abuse. Similarly, the American Society of Aging reveals that there about “more than 5 million elder abuse victims in the United States compared to 1.25 million victims of child abuse.” 

Elder abuse can take various forms from physical abuse, financial exploitation, verbal or emotional abuse, as well as neglect (often inflicted by the elder’s primary caregiver). The diversity in elder abuse also extends to where it could happen as well as who could be the perpetrator. As a matter of fact, elder abuse is often perpetrated by those who are close to the senior citizen (e.g. family members, spouses, and caregivers). Senior citizens can also suffer from elder abuse in both their own homes as well as in senior caring facilities. It is important to put a stop to elder abuse. Learn more about how you can recognize elder abuse and how you can become an active agent in ending this epidemic.

Recognizing Elder Abuse

What are the Different Types of Elder Abuse?

  1. Physical Abuse: Physical abuse is the easiest form of elder abuse to detect. Signs of physical abuse include burns, bruises, or even fractures and physical injuries.
  2. Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse, also known as psychological abuse, is caused by verbal threats or public humiliation of the person.
  3. Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse is common among those with disabilities who are isolated from others. Sexual abuse includes threats or unconsented sexual activity.
  4. Financial Abuse: Financial abuse consists of financial scams (e.g. telemarketing scams), stealing money or possessions from the elder, and signature forgeries. According to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA), victims of elder financial abuse are between 80 to 89 years old with women having a higher probability of becoming victims.
  5. Caregiver Neglect: Caregiver neglect includes the abandonment of senior citizens by caregivers. 

How to Recognize Elder Abuse

There are a variety of signs to identify elder abuse. These include:

  • Bruises, burns, or fractures (physical abuse)
  • Controlling behavior by someone to the senior citizen (emotional abuse)
  • Constant fear and reserved behavior in the senior citizen (elder abuse in general)
  • Isolation (elder abuse in general)
  • Lack of interest (elder abuse in general)
  • Contraction of infections or diseases (sexual abuse)
  • Changes in financial state (financial abuse)
  • Lack of basic care (caregiver neglect)

Controversy About Elder Abuse

Because people do not often think about elder abuse, it can be seen as a controversial topic that elders, caregivers, and their family members do not talk about. This controversy stems from a variety of reasons such as culture and the role of senior citizens.

  • Due to the differences in the culture of each family, the views of elder abuse will differ. For example, the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse highlights the importance of cultural expectations and perceptions in the family’s views of elder abuse. This stems from the role of senior citizens as well as what behaviors are seen as common or expected from them.
  • Oftentimes people do not consider elder abuse as a potential problem in the lives of senior citizens. Due to degenerative diseases and amount of medications that some senior citizens have, family members may be more likely to dismiss the thought of elder abuse by justifying their elder’s behaviors to either a disease or side effects of medications. 

What to Do When You Recognize Elder Abuse

If you encounter instances of elder abuse, it is important that you report the incident to Adult protective services (APS). APS is an adult social service program to help assist older adults in situations such as these. 

As an active agent, it is important that you document the information and provide evidence for your case. For example, make sure that you indicate changes in your senior’s behaviors as well as the behaviors between the interactions between your elder and the perpetrator. Oftentimes, senior citizens might be too afraid to speak up to their perpetrator. This is a common behavior among victims of abuse. That is why it is important for you as a family member, caregiver, or senior care worker to report instances of elder abuse to protect the senior citizen. Another tip on what you can do to prevent elder abuse is to teach your senior how they can look out for signs of abuse. Developing confidence and a sign of awareness in your senior can help them escape a potential experience with elder abuse. 

Don’t let elder abuse affect your senior citizen. Be proactive and teach your community about how you can combat elder abuse today.

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