The Purple Jacket is pleased to welcome back guest writer Kayla Matthews
Elderly adults face unique vulnerabilities. Because their bodies are growing more infirm and their memory may not be what it used to be (even if they don’t suffer from dementia), it’s easy for people with less-than-honorable motives to prey on these individuals. As a result, senior citizens often suffer abuse at the hands of those who care for them.
Not every case of elder abuse stems from purposeful behavior intended to cause physical harm. Mental and emotional abuse can scar individuals more than physical abuse, and elder adults who can no longer care for themselves entirely on their own often find themselves financially exploited.
Here are five types of elder abuse to watch for, and, more importantly, how to intervene and report it to stop the physical or psychological violence.
1. Physical or Sexual Abuse
Physical or sexual abuse can result in serious harm, even death. Signs of physical abuse include unexplained injuries like bruises, cuts and broken bones, or, in the case of sexual abuse, frequent bladder infections and sexually-transmitted diseases.
If you suspect an elder is being physically or sexually abused, document everything carefully. Take care not to confront the abuser yourself. Keep a log of dates and symptoms you note.
Then, report the suspected abuse by contacting the police. They can help assess whether abuse is, in fact, occurring. Also, you can reach out to the National Adult Protective Services Association to report suspected abuse and get tips on how to proceed.
2. Emotional or Mental Abuse
Emotional or mental abuse consists of name-calling, bullying and psychological torture like screaming and threats. Emotional abuse often occurs when the stress of caring for an aging family member causes a pressure-cooker situation, but that doesn’t make the abuse less hurtful. Those suffering psychological abuse often withdraw and lack interest in previously pleasurable activities.
If you suspect such abuse, reach out to the Eldercare Locator to find resources to help take pressure off the abusive family member. Explore assisted living arrangements and involve the senior in the decision-making process when possible.
3. Neglect and Abandonment
Neglect may be willful or not; abandonment refers to ignoring the needs of an elderly individual altogether. Neglect often occurs when overwhelmed family members care for ailing seniors, but sometimes occurs in nursing home environments, too.
Neglect can lead to death quickly if an elderly person is without food, water and medications. Contact the local police department, and reach out to resources like community food banks and home health care providers to get the individual the food and medications they need.
4. Economic Abuse
The New Yorker recently published a scathing expose of how certain assigned senior care personnel usurp the life savings of elderly individuals by declaring them unfit to live alone and then selling their assets to cover unnecessary nursing home care.
Because laws differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the police may be unable to legally intervene in such cases. If you suspect a caregiver is usurping a senior loved ones’ assets on false premises, contact a qualified attorney to discuss their rights.
5. Involuntary Confinement
Involuntary confinement refers to keeping seniors isolated from their loved ones, which usually occurs when an overzealous caregiver cuts off contact with the outside world. Even if the elder is bedridden, they still need the love and support of other family and friends.
If you continually get railroaded when trying to contact your loved one, contact the police. You can also reach out to the Elder Justice locator for local legal aid as set forth by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Keeping Our Seniors Safe
It’s heartbreaking to think that people can work hard their whole lives only to encounter unspeakable abuse in their sunset years. But by taking proactive steps to report suspected elder abuse to the proper authorities, we can provide America’s elderly with the peaceful and healthy retirement they deserve.
Kayla Matthews: Kaylaematthews@gmail.com