Health & Fitness

How to Identify and Therefore Prevent Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can take many forms. Read on to discover the different types of elder abuse to identify, which can help you prevent it from occurring.

Each year, up to 5 million people aged 60 and above experience some form of elder abuse in the United States. Sadly, two-thirds of the perpetrators of this abuse are family members such as spouses and adult children.

Elder abuse takes many forms and can range from mild to severe. But regardless of the type or severity of the abuse perpetrated, the consequences can be devastating. Unfortunately, most elder abuse cases are undetected or unreported, causing great emotional and physical suffering.

This guide discusses the different types of elder abuse and how you can recognize and stop them before it’s too late. Read on to learn more.

What Is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse refers to a single or repeated intentional act or lack of appropriate action that causes harm or distress to an older person. An older person, as we hinted earlier, is a person aged 60 and above.

In most cases, elderly abuse occurs at the hands of someone known to the victim, such as a family member or caregiver. 

What Are the Effects of Elderly Abuse?

Elder abuse can have serious effects.

Seniors who’ve gone through this type of abuse have a higher risk of death compared to elders who’ve never experienced abuse. Elder abuse can also leave the victim feeling fearful, depressed, and anxious in the long term. Where the abuse is of a financial nature, the elderly person can be left in dire financial difficulty.

How Should You Respond to Elder Abuse?

The moment you suspect that your elderly loved one has been the victim of elderly abuse, you should take immediate action. Once they confide in you about the perpetrator, take those accusations seriously, and seek legal help.

For signs of nursing hone abuse, learn more here. 

Types and Signs of Elder Abuse

There are seven types of elder abuse. Below, we look at each of them and how you can spot them.

1. Physical Elder Abuse

This form of abuse involves the intentional use of force against a senior that may lead to physical pain, injury, or death. Warning signs of this type of abuse include bruises, sprains, burns, broken bones, tooth loss, dislocated joints, and unexplained hair loss. 

Unfortunately, most victims of elderly abuse often try to conceal signs of physical injury. Pay attention to any signs of self-treated injuries that the elderly person may have and probe them to find out what may have caused them. Take note of any signs of discomfort toward certain individuals.

Sometimes, physical abuse takes the form of delayed medical care following an injury. You may also notice that the elder has withdrawn from activities they used to enjoy.

2. Sexual Elder Abuse

Sexual abuse refers to any kind of unwanted sexual interaction with a person. It includes having sexual contact with an older adult who has a condition that bars them from consenting to sexual acts such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Signs of sexual abuse include bleeding or from the genitals or anus, bruised inner thighs or genitals, new sexually transmitted diseases, pelvic injuries, torn or bloody underwear, problems sitting or walking, emotional or social withdrawal, and so on. 

3. Emotional and Psychological Elder Abuse

This type of abuse involves intentionally inflicting mental pain, distress, or fear on an older person. It usually takes the form of insults, humiliation, isolation, intimidation, threats, name-calling, terrorizing, and barring access to necessary resources.

Some common signs of emotional and psychological abuse include low self-esteem, mood swings, appearing scared or disturbed, avoiding eye contact, withdrawal, and appearing depressed.

4. Elder Neglect

Elder neglect refers to the failure to meet an elder’s needs in a manner that risks or results in serious injury. It also includes failing to provide protection to the elder from harm. 

Elder neglect does not happen by accident. The caregiver simply lacks regard for the welfare of the elder. It’s the most prevalent form of elder abuse in the country.

Signs of elder neglect include poor hygiene, unexplained weight loss, untreated injuries, poor living conditions, and so on.

5. Elder Abandonment

Elder abandonment is sometimes paired with elder neglect. It happens when someone entrusted with the care of an older adult deserts them intentionally. The perpetrator may leave the elderly person at a nursing home, hospital, a care facility without formal arrangement, or with someone else who did not agree to be the elder’s caregiver.

Signs of elder abandonment include:

  • The elder appears lost, confused, or scared
  • The elder looks frail, dehydrated, or malnourished
  • The senior looks lonely or depressed
  • The elder has poor hygiene

Abandonment can put an elder’s health at risk and cause them a great deal of pain and confusion.

6. Financial Elder Abuse

Financial abuse of an elder involves the improper, unauthorized, or illegal use of the older person’s resources by someone entrusted with their care. This form of abuse is surprisingly common, and it costs American elders almost $3 billion annually. Currently, this form of abuse is the most commonly reported.

Signs of elder financial abuse include a pattern of missing property, canceled checks and bank statements, unexplained ATM withdrawals, eviction notices, and so on. The moment you notice any of these signs, take the time to find out whether your elderly loved one’s caregiver may be doing something fishy.

7. Elder Self-Neglect

Elder self-neglect is arguably the most overlooked type of elder abuse today. It happens when an older adult is no longer able to meet their daily basic needs but has not made arrangements for someone else to help them meet those needs.

Signs of elder self-neglect include:

  • Poor hygiene and dressing
  • Inability to medically care for themselves
  • Poor financial management
  • Skin rashes and bedsores
  • Unclean and unsafe living conditions
  • Unpaid utility bills
  • Lack of food in the house
  • Untreated infections or injuries

Self-neglect is often the result of the elderly person refusing to let go of their independence. However, this form of abuse can just be as dangerous as the others.

Prevent or Deal With Elder Abuse Promptly

Discovering that a relative or friend is experiencing elder abuse can be devastating, particularly when the perpetrator is someone they trusted. Following this discovery, take appropriate action to ensure that none of the above types of elder abuse ever happen to your loved one again.

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