Signs of Elder Abuse: What to Watch For and How to Report It

It is estimated that during any given month of the year, 1 in 10 senior citizens will experience some form of elder abuse. Further complicating the matter is the fact that approximately just one in twenty-four abused seniors will actually report the situation to the authorities. This makes it extremely difficult to get a serious sense of just how widespread this problem really is.

Why Does Elder Abuse Occur?

As we get older, we often find ourselves having to look to others for assistance with day-to-day tasks. This need has created an industry of sorts around elder care and assistance. It has also created an enormous potential for abuse. From con artists, to shady senior care companies/facilities, there are many things seniors need to be wary of.

Furthermore, not all elder abuse cases are perpetrated by fraudulent rest homes, or con artists who simply want to rip off seniors and move on. An astonishing number of elder abuse examples are carried about by people close to the senior. This fact further clouds our ability to do combat senior abuse on a larger scale.

This does not mean you are helpless. Nothing could be further from the truth. While these situations can be traumatic, as well as emotionally, psychologically, and physically dangerous, there are resources available to seniors. For those who are not seniors, but who are concerned about someone they know, these resources can also prove to be invaluable. From knowing the signs of elder abuse, to having personal resources to help you, such as a cell phone for seniors, can help to avoid many unfathomable possibilities.

Tips On Spotting And Avoiding Elder Abuse

Whether you are a concerned senior, or someone who is worried about another individual, here are a few important facts and tips about elder abuse that can prove helpful to many:

  • Understanding the different types of elder abuse: While poor reporting and research in the past has made it difficult for us to fully understand senior citizen abuses in the present, we do have a stronger idea of what defines elder abuse than ever before. There is physical abuse, which includes any sort of behavior on the part of a caregiver that involves causing bodily harm to the senior. There is also abandonment, financial abuse, emotional abuse (often combined with physical), neglect (considered by many to be different outright abandonment), and even sexual abuse. Many seniors experience a combination of the different types we mentioned here.
  • Looking for physical signs: This tip particularly concerns anyone who is worried that someone they know is experiencing this form of abuse. There are several physical indicators of senior abuse to keep in mind. One of the biggest would be if the individual is showing signs of malnutrition, but does not have an illness that might cause such a condition. The presence of poor hygiene and bad sores are other red flags. Unexplained injuries, frequent emergency room visits, and a lack of personal, basic necessities are also physical signs to watch for.
  • Looking for behavioral/emotional signs: Depressive symptoms are one of the biggest clues to suggest that something might be going on. This is particularly true if the senior has not experienced such feelings in the past. Isolation is another sign, and it is important to remember that isolating a senior can be an abuse perpetrated by an individual. At the same time, due to depression, the senior may choose to isolate themselves.
  • Listen to them: This tip ties keenly into the tip that we just mentioned above. If they express sentiments that could be tied to such emotions as anxiety or anger, there is a good chance that something is happening. If they seem as though they are hesitant to speak freely, you may want to be concerned. Finally, listen to any stories or explanations offered, if you mention noticing some sign of physical and/or emotional abuse. If the story strikes you as being implausible, or even flat-out impossible, it may be time to seek outside assistance.
  • What about financial abuse? This is also worth studying in greater detail. Look for a lack of amenities in the home, if the homeowner can definitely afford those things in the first place. You may also want to pay attention to gifts being given by the senior in exchange for care. Finally, seniors who do not control their own finances, or who do not understand the transactions being carried out in their name (if they do have dementia or Alzheimer’s), could be experiencing forms of financial abuse.
  • Sexual abuse: The presence of unexplained STDs, bruises/welts/cuts/sores, or any damage/irritation to the genitals, are sure signs that senior sexual abuse is going on.
  • Pay attention to the caregiver: Generally speaking, the caregiver is not going to come right out and admit to anything you accuse them. If you want to build a case against them that can be brought to the authorities, you will need to do some research, while also paying attention to their behavior. Obtain as much background information. Certain mental illnesses, financial desperation, or a history of certain illegal behaviors are all potential red flags. Another would be if the caregiver refuses to allow the senior to speak with others alone. Withholding affection, as well as feelings of anger/resentment/indifference, are other things to look for.

Preventing Senior Abuse

Whether you are experiencing elder abuse yourself, or if you are witnessing it in a situation with someone you love, the next step is naturally to report the abuse to the authorities. This can be extremely difficult for those in abusive situation. For seniors who want to arm themselves against any of this ever happening to them, the ability to reach out on your own is imperative. Keeping something like a cellphone/smartphone for elders on hand, while also knowing who to contact, can quite possibly save your life.

Here are a few organizations to research for further senior citizen abuse help:

  • Adult Protective Services
  • Administration on Aging
  • National Legal Resource Center and Legal Assistance Developers
  • Legal Services for the Elderly (Title III-B)
  • The National Center on Law and Elder Rights
  • AARP
  • Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs
  • The Alzheimer’s Association.

You may also want to look for lawyers who specialize in elder abuse cases. They can help you to weigh your options in the best light.

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