We welcome back guest writer, Kayla Matthews to The Purple Jacket.
As a caregiver, you want the elderly people you look after to feel safe and comfortable. Whether they live at home or in an assisted living facility, their health and continued well being relies in part on the safety of the other people in their environment. While many caregivers show elderly clients the utmost respect, others may not always have their best interests at heart.
Elder abuse is any intentional action that harms or could bring harm to an elderly person. Anyone can commit elder abuse — including caregivers, family members, friends and strangers — and the abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual, financial or neglectful in nature. It’s easy to see how any act of abuse could cause a decline in an older adult’s health or quality of life.
Unfortunately, incidents of elder abuse are more common than many people assume. Around 10 percent of elders experience some form of elder abuse, according to one comprehensive review. Despite the prevalence of abuse, it remains under-reported, which makes it difficult to address effectively.
Reporting suspected elder abuse is the best way caregivers and other individuals can help address this widespread problem. Detecting abuse has proven difficult, though, especially because people may confuse signs of abuse with symptoms of aging or other conditions like dementia.
In order to notice and report elder abuse, people need a clear understanding of the signs related to abuse. Here are five warning signs caregivers should look out for.
1. Unexplained Injuries
Unexplained injuries may be signs of physical abuse. These injuries can range from small bruises or cuts to broken bones, though you may also watch for subtler signs of nursing home abuse like restraint markings on the wrists or ankles.
If you notice injuries that seem suspicious, talk to the person about it. If they don’t have an explanation or if the same injuries keep coming up again and again, it could be a sign of physical abuse.
2. Changes in Behavior
Emotional or other kinds of abuse may result in behavioral changes. These could include increased fear, withdrawn personality or lack of interest in previously enjoyed social activities.
An abuser may isolate a victim, making them more vulnerable, so it’s important to combat their mistreatment by staying in contact with loved ones frequently and paying attention to possible behavior changes. If you notice any signs of emotional abuse, consider reporting them.
3. Signs of Neglect
Though neglect may not be intentional, it can pose a serious danger to an older person’s safety, so it is often included in definitions of elder abuse. Signs of neglect may include unclean living conditions, dehydration or malnutrition or bed welts, which develop when a person is not turned often enough in bed. An elderly person may also experience neglect if they are abandoned or left alone in public.
Neglect is a serious form of elder abuse, so you may also need to report it in addition to other forms of mistreatment.
4. New Financial Troubles
Some people intentionally take advantage of an older person’s money or financial vulnerability through scams or simply asking for money. Signs of financial abuse include missing checks, strange bank charges and a sudden inability to pay bills on time.
Contrary to popular belief, family members are the most common perpetrators of financial abuse, so it’s important to pay attention to these risks regardless of the older adult’s living situation.
5. A Hovering Caregiver
A caregiver who refuses to leave an older person alone may also be a sign of abuse. Though this behavior may seem sweet or attentive, it could be used to intimidate the person and keep them from discussing their mistreatment.
If you suspect abuse, try to discuss it with the person alone, away from anyone who may try to influence the conversation.
Reporting Elder Abuse
These aren’t the only signs of elder abuse. Because every situation is different, the signs of abuse may vary. If you notice these or other signs, though, you may consider reporting abuse to an appropriate authority like the police or adult protective services.
By educating yourself and others about the problem and reporting elder abuse when you recognize it, you can help keep the older adults in your community safe, healthy and happy.
Kayla Matthews is a lifestyle and productivity writer whose work has been featured on Lifehacker, The Next Web, MakeUseOf and Inc.com. You can read more posts from Kayla on her blog, Productivity Theory.