While abuse of children has become one of the most discussed issues facing America today—and justly so—another kind of abuse happens just as often, and receives much less attention. About 2-10% of all elderly adults become victims of elder abuse, which can make the final years of life humiliating and frustrating, and lead to serious medical conditions ranging from depression to death. Elder abuse can happen in the home, perpetrated by a member of the family, or a caregiver in an institutional or medical setting. Concerned adults should learn to know the signs of elder abuse, and take appropriate action to protect elderly friends and family.
Elder abuse can take several forms. When adults experience reduced mental or cognitive function as a result of age, they can become easy targets for scams and other forms of financial abuse. Caring for an elderly relative can become stressful, both emotionally and financially. Unfortunately, this stress can lead younger family members to neglect or abandon elderly relatives. In both the home and in assisted living facilities, the elderly can become targets of emotional, physical, or even sexual abuse from friends, family and even nursing home staff. Knowing the signs of elder abuse can go along way toward protecting an aging loved one.
Spotting the signs
Concerned friends and family should always keep a watchful eye on elderly loved ones, and should know the signs of elder abuse Physical abuse often manifests in obvious ways. An older adult might have sudden, serious injuries, or show minor symptoms like cuts or bruises which suggest physical trauma. Depression can occur in older men and women as a result of diminished capacity or as a result of loss of spouses or other loved ones. Sudden depression, or other changes in mood, however, can indicate abuse. Concerned family should take particular notice of an elderly adult who displays sudden confusion, loss of memory or withdrawal. Abrupt changes in financial status can indicate financial abuse. Older adults who experience changes in hygiene, weight loss, or who show signs of infections due to unsanitary conditions could also be victims of elder abuse.
As with any kind of abuse or neglect, concerned parties should investigate further. Talking to a possible victim can help shed light on the matter. If friends or family still suspect abuse, reaching out to local police, or calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline can get legal authorities involved, and put an end to the mistreatment of an elder. Nobody can stop aging, and older adults deserve to live out their final days with dignity and proper care. Knowing the signs of elder abuse can help protect an elderly loved one from embarrassment, humiliation and potentially life-threatening violence.