As our loved ones age, they may become more reliant on others to help them with their daily tasks. When we can be there to help them that means we need to depend on others.
This can be very difficult for everyone. We want our loved ones to receive the care they need and know they are safe and in good hands. It can be difficult if they are in the care of a stranger.
What is Elder Abuse?
For those who have never had to care for an aging loved one or been in the position ourselves, we may have no idea that our loved ones are being abused or being taken advantage of.
This can be made even worse if they are non-verbal or living with some type of dementia or diminished mental capabilities. But elder abuse and neglect are, unfortunately, very common.
It can happen from strangers and right in our own families. When elders are abused, it isn’t always obvious. Very often, we have no idea and if they can’t tell us, it can go on for ages undetected.
If your loved one is being physically abused then this should be the most obvious, but not always. This includes hitting, slapping, biting, kicking, pushing, and more.
Emotional abuse can come in the form of yelling, threatening, shouting, and name-calling. It often makes the person afraid of speaking out for fear of retaliation.
Belittling them, disrespect and humiliation, threats to their well-being, or suggesting they may lose privileges or anything else if they don’t comply, or threatening to move them someplace in order to get them to act a particular way.
This can be anything from inappropriate suggestions to actual physical contact. Any type of inappropriate touching, talk, or physical contact without consent is considered abuse.
Another form of elder abuse is neglect. This means depriving them of any basic needs they may have. These include food, water, medication, sleep, clean clothing, hygiene, and isolation.
Taking money, benefits, investments, belongings, or any other property and assets without express consent is illegal. This goes for family, as well. Unless you are legally able to access their estate, it is illegal and considered abuse.
Warning Signs of Elder Abuse
Physical changes in your loved one may be a sign of abuse. Bruising, broken bones, broken glasses, torn clothing, marks that may be from restraints, missing hair, and more.
They may appear scared, timid, or withdrawn where they never used to. If they are too scared to speak or seem depressed or confused, this may be a sign of emotional abuse.
They may be suffering from malnutrition, they may appear dirty or unkempt, or they may seem thinner than normal, dehydrated, or even over or under-medicated.
Also, any discrepancies in their banking or accounts. If they don’t seem to have any money on hand, if their bank has unusual withdrawals or transfers, or seems to have uncommon spending patterns.
Check their home for missing property like jewelry, antiques, electronic devices, and other smaller items that are easy to carry and sell. Any of these signs can lead to elder abuse.
What to Do?
If you suspect there is abuse happening, talk to your loved one. Even if they say everything is fine but you suspect differently, it’s important to let them know they can trust you.
The first step is to call the police. This needs to be reported. If your loved one has a caregiver from an agency, contact them and report the incidents right away.
Get the person you suspect of abusing your loved one out of the home immediately. Let your loved one know that it isn’t their fault. Take your loved one to a medical professional for a check-up.
When you have to leave your parent or loved one with a stranger or caregiver, there are steps you can take to help ensure their safety. Have emergency numbers programmed into their phone that only they can access.
You can also consider a medical alert system. This allows them immediate emergency help with the press of a button. This will give you and them peace of mind.