Every year, hundreds of thousands of elderly adults are abused, neglected, or financially exploited, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This abuse — which may involve sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and/or financial exploitation — is all-too-common, impacting a full 10% of aging Americans.
While it is a complex issue, there are distinct ways to help. Professionals recommend early detection and taking swift preventative measures. Here are some important things to consider.
Understand The Red Flags
Unfortunately, some caregivers are more likely to abuse elderly patients than others. While it is important to remember that these are not definitive signs of a problem, it is wise to be extra cautious when the following red flags are present:
- A financial conflict of interest (i.e., the caregiver is finally dependent on the elder he or she is caring for).
- Minimal training. In nearly all circumstances, formal training and/or education helps mitigate risks of elder abuse.
- A blatantly lacking social network. Caring for others can be emotionally and physically draining. Those with strong support systems are often better-equipped for the task.
- In terms of institutions, be wary of high turnover rates, inadequate supervision, and questionable hiring practices (e.g., failing to verify credentials or perform background checks).
Know The Signs of Elder Abuse
While the above may indicate the possibility of a problem, loved ones need to know the definitive signs of elder abuse and when to take action. If you notice any of the following, report the abuse and contact elder abuse attorneys right away:
- Unexplained bruises, redness, or marks on skin.
- A marked unwillingness to treat bruises and recent injuries.
- A worn, disheveled appearance. The elder shows visible symptoms of a lack of hygiene. They appear unbathed or unwashed, their hair remains unbrushed, and/or their clothing looks wrinkled and unkempt.
- Unexplained and dramatic weight loss.
- Isolating seniors from communities and activities they enjoy without reasonable explanation.
- Unexplained, irregular ATM or credit/debit card history (financial exploitation).
Unfortunately, current research shows that just one in 14 elder abuse cases are reported at all. If you see blatant signs of elder abuse, do not hesitate to contact a lawyer and/or the proper authorities.
What Can Be Done?
The causes of elder abuse — or the reasons behind it — are murky and not well-understood. Even so, there are concrete actions in nursing homes and loved ones can take to protect the elderly.
First, take any admissions of abuse seriously! Do not dismiss loved ones, and do your part to report and thoroughly investigate any claims of elder abuse.
Keep elders engaged and active in their community. Visit frequently, and encourage them to take part in events with friends and family. Finally, make sure to carefully document what happened. You may want to consider contacting local and state governments to find out what you can do to help push legislation supporting elders and stipulating specifics for eldercare through.
Institutions can help by keeping nursing homes or facilities fully staffed, performing background checks on potential candidates during the hiring process, and carefully and thoroughly administering training programs.
Plus, it is helpful for facilities to have clear guidelines on what is and isn’t acceptable and what constitutes quality care. It is wise for nursing homes to have a clearly defined care plan that is written out for everyone to see. That way, people can take over if their colleague needs a sick day, caregivers do not confuse patients, and all necessary items get checked off the posted care plan or list.
World Elder Abuse Prevention Day is on June 15. Do not wait to prioritize the health and care of your loved one. Maintain regular contact with the elder in your life and — if you suspect anything is amiss — take action right away.