Taking Advantage of the Elderly is Reality

Posted on August 27, 2013 by ecrBayArea in Elder Law

If you think taking advantage of the elderly (a/k/a Elder Abuse) happens mainly in lower income areas or facilities for the elderly, you are incorrect. In fact, elder abuse is all around us, and we cannot turn away from this growing problem or any of us can become a victim.

Unfortunately the prevalence of individuals 65 and over suffering from abuse is significantly rising but the problem remains one that is not talked about enough. That is why I want to openly discuss this important issue and am happy that The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse has designated Wednesday, June 15, as the sixth annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. We need to be aware of what elder abuse is and how we can each do our part to help prevent it.

Following are some questions and answers regarding elder abuse…many of these answers will totally surprise you:

What is Elder Abuse?
Though many of us think of physical abuse when we here the word “abuse,” there are several forms of elder abuse. According to the Area on Aging, following are the broad definitions:

  • Physical Abuse – inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior, e.g. slapping, bruising, or restraining by physical or chemical means.
  • Sexual Abuse – non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
  • Neglect – the failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.
  • Financial Exploitation – the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit.
  • Emotional Abuse – inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts, e.g. humiliating, intimidating, or threatening.
  • Abandonment – desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
  • Self-neglect – characterized as the failure of a person to perform essential, self-care tasks and that such failure threatens his/her own health or safety.

Who are the most common abusers?
Adult children, spouses, or other family members are the most common abusers.

What are the reasons this type of abuse would occur?
Following are just some of the factors that researchers list:

  • Unscreened Caregivers: A common reason is that often families hire an outside caregiver who has not been properly screened and background checked.
  • Caregiver stress – Many family caregivers are not prepared or trained for the responsibility of caring for an elderly person who has dementia or is physically impaired.
  • Financial dependence – Caregivers who rely on the elder’s financial income are more likely to initiate abuse.
  • Isolation – Families that experience social isolation can be a factor that causes the abuse among the elderly population.
  • Personal problems – Caregivers who suffer from problems such as alcoholism, drug addiction or emotional disorders are more likely to become abusers themselves.
  • Cultural differences – Certain cultural factors, including language barriers, make certain situations difficult to assess for abusive behavior.

What are the “red flags?”

Some of the physical warning signs may include an elderly person with uncombed hair, matted hair or patches missing, poor skin condition or hygiene, appearance of being malnourished or dehydrated, unexplained bruises and burns.

Some of the behavioral warning signs may include being withdrawn, appearing helpless, frightened, hesitant to talk freely and an elderly person being isolated without contact with others.

Some of the financial warning signs may include unusual bank account activity, numerous unpaid bills when someone else has been designated to pay the bills, buying items he or she doesn’t need and can’t use, the appearance of a stranger who begins a new close relationship and offers to manage the elder’s finances.

If suspected, where do I report possible elder abuse?

If someone is in immediate danger, call 911. Otherwise, contact Adult Protective Services (APS) where the elder resides or call 1-800-677-1116.