I had heard the term “elder abuse” before, but it never really crossed my mind as to…
a) what it really was…
b) that it could happen to someone I know…
c) what to do about it.
What is Elder Abuse?
First of all, the “elder” we are talking about “are people who are older, frail, and vulnerable and cannot help themselves and depend on others to meet their most basic needs” (Administration on Aging, n.d.).
Please note: Abusers can be male or female, and are often times family members, friends, or trusted individuals.
Elder abuse refers to “any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult” (Administration on Aging, n.d.).
Elder abuse can by physical abuse (inflicting any type of physical pain or physical injury), sexual abuse (non-consensual sexual contact of any kind), neglect (failure to provide basic human needs), exploitation (illegal taking, misuses, or concealment of another’s property which can include money, property, etc.), emotional abuse (inflicting emotional pain or mental pain or distress), abandonment (abandoning or leaving the person to care for themselves), self-neglect (failure of the individual to perform self-care tasks that threaten their own health and well being) (Administration on Aging, n.d.).
Signs of Elder Abuse
Clearly any markings that are unusual such as bruising, pressure marks, broken bones, cuts, burns, or bedsores can be signs of physical abuse. Of course, elderly individuals are more prone to accidents, but when bruising or broken bones are becoming more frequent or are not consistent with a fall, that is when abuse should be considered.
Bruises around sexual body parts can indicate sexual abuse.
Withdrawal from their normal behavior and routine; abnormal behavior such as belittling, threatening, or arguing; can indicate emotional and verbal abuse.
Poor hygiene, not receiving proper medical care, and medical injuries would also be a clear indication of neglect.
Bottom line, you know your elderly person. If something is unusual about their appearance or their behavior and have suspicions of abuse, please report it.
What to do if Someone is Being Abused?
First and foremost, if someone is in immediate danger, call 911 or the local police for immediate assistance (Administration on Aging, n.d.).
If the danger is not immediate, but you suspect abuse, you can report it to your local Adult Protective Services (APS). You can find this number on the State Resources section of the National Center on Elder Abuse website or on the Eldercare Locator website. You can also call 1-800-677-1116 (Administration on Aging, n.d.).
Additionally, you can contact the State Elder Abuse Hotline.
Please know that if you are the abuser, medical staff, primary care doctors, nurses, and hospitals can report suspected elder abuse.
Also know that not following an elders wishes when it comes to their care is considered elder abuse. That means if they have a DNR and you fail to report it to medical staff or they have a living will stating that they do not wish to be kept alive using extreme measures (ie: life support) – not providing these documents to medical staff is considered elder abuse.
If you are aware of an individual who is abusing an elder or neglecting an elder and do not report it, you too are an abuser by association.
Administration on Aging. (n.d.). What is elder abuse? Retrieved May 14, 2014, from http://www.aoa.gov/AoA_programs/elder_rights/EA_prevention/whatisEA.aspx