Elder Abuse and Neglect: The Real Silent Killer
Let’s take a moment to be thankful for the events that we have overcame in the year 2020. While
many have faced both financial and physical challenges in the year 2020, we’re still looking at a problem
that needs more than just Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer. That problem is elder abuse and neglect. Now, what is elder abuse and neglect, you say? Just what the name implies. But here’s an official definition according to the Center for Disease Control: Elder abuse is an intentional act, or failure to act, by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult.
You may have heard such things happening in situations mostly where the family hires a seemingly sweet, loving and attentive caregiver only to find out (usually the hard way) that he or she are not what they claimed to be. Instead of just having to endure the neglect you get the abuse as well. Yes, there are cases where individuals will cause harm to their fragile clients. This “harm” can come in different forms and it’s important to know what they kind they are. Below are the different types of elder abuse.
- Neglect – The failure to meet an older adult’s basic needs. These needs include food, water, shelter, clothing, hygiene, and essential medical
- Physical abuse – when an elder experiences illness, pain, injury, functional impairment, distress, or death as a result of the intentional use of physical force and includes acts such as hitting, kicking, pushing, slapping, and
- Sexual abuse – involves forced or unwanted sexual interaction of any kind with an older adult. This may include unwanted sexual contact or penetration or non-contact acts such as sexual
- Emotional or Psychological Abuse – verbal or nonverbal behaviors that inflict anguish, mental pain, fear, or distress on an older adult. Examples include humiliation or disrespect, verbal and non-verbal threats, harassment, and geographic or interpersonal isolation
- Financial Abuse – the illegal, unauthorized, or improper use of an elder’s money, benefits,
belongings, property, or assets for the benefit of someone other than the older adult.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations, it’s going to get worse. According to these key facts published on the World Health Organization website,
- Around 1 in 6 people 60 years and older experienced some form of abuse in community settings during the past
Meaning this happens often than not.
- Rates of elder abuse are high in institutions such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities, with 2 in 3 staff reporting that they have committed abuse in the past year.
Also means that this happens often in places we often look into for help.
- Elder abuse can lead to serious physical injuries and long-term psychological
- Elder abuse is predicted to increase as many countries are experiencing rapidly aging
- The global population of people aged 60 years and older will more than double, from 900 million in 2015 to about 2 billion in
Meaning this has to stop.
“Well how would I know if I ever come across elder abuse or neglect?” Good question. Some signs are more noticeable than others (such as sudden bruising) but still pay close attention to any other strange events happening like any valuables that come up missing. With that being said, some signs to look out for are listed below as well:
- Physical abuse: Unexplained burns, cuts, bruises, and bleeding, sprained or broken bones, and injuries that happen over and over
- Neglect: Unusual weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration, Unsanitary living conditions: dirt, bugs, soiled bedding and clothes, being left dirty or unbathed, etc.
- Sexual abuse: Some warning signs of this include bruises around breasts or genitals, unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding, torn, stained, or bloody
- Financial abuse: Items or cash missing from the senior’s household, significant withdrawals from
the elder’s accounts, suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and policies, etc.
- Emotional abuse: Threatening, belittling, or controlling caregiver behavior, behavior from the elder that mimics dementia, such as rocking, sucking, or mumbling to themselves
Like I said before, some signs are slightly more noticeable, so you’ll know when you see them. It is
imperative that you pay attention to any changes in the elder’s health condition when checking on them
as well as report them as soon as possible.
Some not so obvious signs will include financial exploitation and emotional abuse. Suspicious financial activity can easily be missed if not micromanaged closely and regularly. Identifying signs of emotional abuse can be overlooked as well if the elder is mute.
Ok, so far, we identified what it is, what it could be, how it happens, how often it happens, and what to look for. Your final and most important question is probably, “What I can do to help put an end to elder abuse or even prevent it?” Well, you should immediately report any abuse you witnessed to the proper authorities such as 911 in any serious emergencies or situations that may arise.
However, if you suspect any elder abuse or neglect happening, please visit (or google search) the National Center on Elder Abuse State Resource Database website to find the reporting number for your state. Aren’t you glad there wasn’t another list this time? This website has included a ton of resources, hotlines, research and data, state offices, laws and regulations that I’m sure will answer any and all your questions that you may have related to elder abuse.
As a final note, most cases of elder abuse are perpetrated by known and trusted others, particularly family members (including adult children, spouses, and others). Don’t be that person. Love your elders and take care of them. A few more tips on preventing elder abuse and neglect would be to keep in contact with your elders, be selective when choosing a caregiver, make sure the elder (and you) are proactive and informed on current events. Lastly, let us take a stand together to put an end to elder abuse and protect our elders.