Elder abuse comes in many forms. It can occur repeatedly physical or emotional misconduct. Conversely, it can occur through the lack of providing proper care and nurturing. Another type of elder abuse happens when finances are mishandled or stolen from the unsuspecting senior citizen. Elder abuse and neglect are equally nefarious. Elder abusers mislead those in their care by violating the trust of those who depend on them.
Roughly one of 10 senior citizens have experienced abuse. The abuse taken by a senior citizen may cause him or her to isolate from others, lose weight, or act out in uncharacteristic ways. Other impacts of abuse include hospitalizations, increased medical costs, and deeper codependence. Abuse and exploitation of the elderly can be avoided. Learn more about elder abuse, its perpetrators, and how to prevent it below.
What is elder abuse?
There is no shortage of ways to perform elder abuse on a senior citizen. Of the many ways to abuse an older adult, the following comprise the main methods:
- Physical – Any form of hitting or causing physical pain to another person is considered physical abuse. Some examples of physical elder abuse include scratching, biting, pushing or striking the older individual.
- Sexual – This constitutes any form of sexual interaction in which the senior citizen does not wish to partake. Examples include groping, sexual language or sex without consent. Older people who cannot competently respond or approve are also victims of elder sexual abuse.
- Emotional – Emotional abuse is as damaging as any other form of elder abuse. Mental health and wellness are critical for older individuals who need a sharp mind and confidence to cope with aging and many other health issues. Elder emotional abuse includes behaviors or speech intended to control, humiliate, threaten, or isolate a person. Coercion, limiting visits and calls, or talking down to a senior person are all examples of emotional abuse.
- Neglect – Elderly neglect not only results in physical consequences, but it can also cause emotional trauma and death. Examples of elder neglect include leaving an older person alone for days at a time and not providing enough nutrition or hydration. Other cases of elder abuse and neglect involve failing to help keep up with hygiene or cleaning and not administering proper medications on schedule.
- Financial – Financial senior abuse constitutes using an older adult’s money without his or her knowledge. Furthermore, using the money without permission is usually for purposes that would not benefit the elderly individual. Examples include outright theft, withholding information and assets, or abusing the rights given to a guardian or power of attorney.
Many senior citizens experience one or more forms of elder abuse regularly, especially if they live in nursing homes or assisted living communities. Elder abuse in nursing homes and assisted living locations may be the principal places in which physical and sexual abuse occur. Meanwhile, seniors living at home are more likely to experience neglect and financial hardship due to theft.
Who would abuse the elderly?
Surprisingly, 60 percent of all elder abuse is committed by a family member. Adult children of senior citizens, spouses, and other relatives make up the majority of those who perpetrate this behavior. Unfortunately, elder abuse statistics purvey that adult male children who have a history of substance abuse comprise the largest population of elderly abusers. One study found that family members were the most prominent group committing financial exploitation of older adults. While family members make up for the majority of elder abuse cases, many other parties are responsible too.
Long-term care facility staff and other inhabitants of the homes make up the remaining 40 percent of elder abuse cases. Different studies have found mixed results. Nonetheless, the main takeaways mark emotional, sexual, and physical abuse as the dominating forms. Furthermore, abuse of adults with disabilities or dementia occurs more frequently than for those without these afflictions.
Elder Abuse Risk Factors
If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one succumbing to elder abuse, consider the following risk factors that may affect the chances:
- Little to no social support – An older person who does not have a lot of friends or family to check in regularly is more likely to be abused in a long-term care facility.
- Dementia – Nearly half of the older patients with dementia have reported abuse.
- Poor physical health – The inability to function in a “normal fashion” physically increases the likelihood of elder abuse.
Other contributors that raise the probability of abuse include low income, being a female, lacking a spouse and not using social services. Being in good physical health and of sound mind can detract from instances of abuse. Taking your health seriously can save your life in more ways than one. Older adults who have experienced abuse are 300 percent more likely to die than seniors who were not.
How do we prevent abuse of the elderly?
You can be instrumental in preventing abuse of the elderly. Start by calling the police if someone you know is in immediate danger. Otherwise, you can contact the following:
- Adult Protective Services – Find a local office and report the abuse or suspected elder abuse.
- Long-term care ombudsman – These serve as advocates for senior citizens who live in nursing homes and other assisted-living locations with other people who need daily care.
Another way to prevent elder abuse is by teaching senior citizens and the community at large. Inform your friends and family about this very real problem and empower them to speak up if they know anything. Standing up for those who cannot do so on their own and contacting the proper authorities can save someone you love.
How will you prevent abuse of the elderly in your community?