Seniors today are more independent, active and in better health than ever before. However, as the senior population grows, unfortunately, so does the epidemic of abuse and neglect. The elderly population is the most affluent, the fastest growing and the most vulnerable to abuse. In San Diego alone, there are more than 305,000 seniors aged 65 and older and statistics show that approximately one out of every twenty seniors will be a victim of abuse in their lifetime. Unfortunately, these statistics may be seriously low, because only 19% of elder abuse incidents are reported. June is national elder abuse awareness month, but it is critical that even after the month of June passes, that friends and family of seniors be aware of the signs of possible elder abuse.
Physical elder abuse is described as any physical force that results in pain, bodily injury or impairment. Physical abuse is generally more than just striking someone; it may also include:
Using physical restraints, physical punishment or force-feeding is also considered physical abuse. It is important to keep in mind that not only should you be aware of the physical signs, such as bruises, wounds or cuts, but the other signs as well, including a sudden change in the senior’s behaviors or if a caregiver refuses to allow seniors to be alone with visitors.
Psychological or Emotional Abuse
Although many people associate elder abuse with only the visible signs, elder abuse may also be emotional or psychological. Emotional abuse can be described as any infliction of distress, anguish or pain through verbal or nonverbal actions. For instance, it may include threatening, harassing, intimidating or insulting an elderly person. Emotional abuse may also include giving seniors the “silent treatment”, treating them like an infant or isolating them from family and friends. Whether it is by yelling at, humiliating, threatening or ridiculing, psychological abuse is a form of mistreatment that harms a senior’s mental health.
Elder abuse may also take place in a way that is not often considered; by way of the senior’s wallet. Financial or material exploitation generally includes any time someone improperly or illegally uses an elderly person’s assets, property or funds. For instance:
- Forging an elderly person’s signature on checks
- Stealing their possessions or money
- Coercing an elderly person to sign over check or other legal documents
- Misappropriate use of guardianship or power of attorney
Elder abuse may also include neglect, which happens when seniors are deprived of the essential necessities, such as water, food, safe living environment and medical treatment. Sexual abuse and abandonment are also forms of elder abuse that many people aren’t aware of. The best way to ensure your elderly loved one does not become a victim of elder abuse is to be informed and aware of any and all changes, whether it is emotionally, financially or physically. Maintain an open line of communication with your senior loved one’s caregivers, ideally with face-to-face contact and be aware of any subtle changes in a loved one’s behavior, such as becoming withdrawn, a lack of appetite or repetitive movements (rocking or swaying).
If you have even the slightest suspension that your elderly loved one is being abused in any manner, contact the caregiver’s supervisor and the local authorities immediately. If a situation appears to be life threatening or a crime is in progress, call 9-1-1 or the local law enforcement agency. To report suspected senior abuse in a facility, contact the San Diego DA reporting line at 619-531-3342. You may also report suspected abuse in facilities at the toll free hot line (800-722-0432) or report complaints online.
If you are in need of a caregiver that will provide your loved one with the trusting assistance they need, please contact us, we take our jobs very seriously, and that we treat our patients as family.