A report from the National Institute of Health(www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/worlds…) states that 8.5 percent of people worldwide (617 million) are aged 65 and over.
This percentage is projected to jump to nearly 17 percent of the world’s population by 2050 (1.6 billion) – a fast-growing population indeed.
To understand why this is the case see this post. This rapid growth makes the understanding of abuse issues facing this generation of elderly people, vital.
This post will define what elder abuse is, explain the signs to recognize it, detail the seven most prevalent types, and finally proposes solutions to elder abuse.
What is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse can be defined as a single or repeated abusive act by a trusted person generally a relative or an employed caretaker that can cause harm or discomfort to an elderly person.
Three words are important here – relationship, trust, and harm.
These explain why indiscriminate robbery or any other type of abuse not directed to aging citizens only, would not qualify as elder abuse.
These acts include physical abuse, coercion, drug-induced restraint, Psychological or emotional abuse, Financial abuse, Material abuse, Sexual abuse, Neglect, etc.
Note these acts may or may not be conscious or intentional.
Before we describe in detail, the seven types of abuses aging people can be subjected to, let’s look at where the abuses take place.
The abuses happen in the homes of the elderly by the relatives or the employed caretaker or in care centers by the management or the staff of the care centers.
Physical Abuse Of The Elder Person.
If a caretake – a family member or an employed caretaker – places an elder person in any form of physical danger causing harm, physical abuse has occurred.
Specifically, the abuser may pull the hair, kick, slap, burn, force-feed, or hit the elder.
Any of these actions represent physical abuse. Administration of wrong medication or wrong amount medication, intentionally or unintentionally, will also represent physical abuse to the senior citizen.
Also, the use of excessive force to restrain the elderly person, either through the use of ropes/belts or drug-induced, will also count as physical abuse.
What might cause physical abuse, where in most cases, the caretaker is the son or daughter of the aging parent or a trained professional, particularly in care centers, hospitals, or doctors’ offices?
The following answers may surprise you: The first and foremost cause is stress. Please see this post.
Stress could come from the excessive workload in the cases of those with outside work, money problems, little or no time to take care of family and spouse.
It could come from financial problems since many caretakers receive no pays or even time to care for themselves.
If a caretaker is tired, sleepy, unhappy, in short, stressed due to any of the above reasons any of the physical abuses could occur, intentionally or unintentionally.
Even some caretakers may be addicted to drugs and alcohol or prone to pilfering.
These will cause bad behavior and friction between the elder/the family and the caretaker.
The behavior of some elderly persons could be irritating to the caretaker.
Consider a situation where the elderly is the healthy type who would like to drive, go on top of roofs to effect repairs, or go to the kitchen to prepare meals without supervision.
What if the senior citizen has any type of dementia that can induce forgetfulness or diabetes that can induce sudden coma or any of the many debilitating disabilities that plague many elderly people?
Such elderly persons like to be left alone to do things his way. After all, “I have been doing these all my life”, they always argue.
Even some elder persons abuse the caretaker which could cause friction and resentment.
Any of these behaviors can start physical abuse.
Does it not make your skin crawl to know that a feeble, weak, sickly, and generally retired and on social security elderly person is always at greater risk to be swindled of his/her money by some heartless people?
Then wait and hear that according to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA), ninety percent of the abusers are family members or friends the aging seniors trust and depend on for help and guidance.
The worst sufferers of financial abuse in the aging population are those adults suffering from any of the types of dementia.
These swindlers pounce on these helpless adults when they notice an elevated cognitive decline. They employ different types of scams like bogus purchases or outright embezzlement through identity theft.
Of all the abuses against senior citizens, sexual abuse is the most heinous.
Sexual abuse involves an unwanted or nonconsensual physical contact (but sometimes verbal), like in unwarranted touching or outright forcing yourself on an elderly person or rape.
How would you feel if your aging father or mother is violated by a caregiver either in a care facility or in your parent’s home?
According to statistics, 8 in 10 of the times, the perpetrator is the primary caregiver.
And the elderly women are six times more likely to fall a victim than their male counterparts (the United States, Department of Aging. http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=616049&mode=2)
This fear is among the reasons why many children refuse to send their aging parents to care facilities that have a higher incidence of sexual abuse or even leave them alone with caregivers.
Sexual abuse could be happening right under your nose without your recognizing it unless you are aware of the signs.
The signs include sudden undue or unexplained fear of people, withdrawal to self, torn underwear or bloody underwear, unexplained bruises on the inside part of both legs, etc.
If you have an elder father or mother with memory impairment, be aware this group of senior citizens is targeted most for sexual abuse because the evil people know that the elders are always confused, and rarely will their stories be believed.
Elder neglect abuse occurs when the caretaker or a person responsible for providing the needs (medical, social, or psychological), for whatever reason, fails to deliver.
It is easy to understand why this behavior falls under elder abuse.
The aging adult particularly those with debilitating disabilities can’t help themselves and will come to harm (like death, malnutrition, worsening of the condition, etc.) if the help did not come.
For example: withholding essential needs like food, the prescribed medication, taking the elder to doctors’ appointments, doing some household choirs, including sanitation and grooming, etc. can harm the aging senior in no small measure.
The aging adult has these needs but can’t provide them by himself.
And these were why the caretaker was employed or volunteered to take care of the elderly.
So many factors can induce elder neglect. From the caretaker’s perspective, the elder person may be abusive, stubborn – like insisting to do things his way.
The elder could insist on taking his medication or eating food when he chooses or taking a birth only when he likes.
Worse still he may have a total dislike of the caretaker.
Another factor is the level of mental and physical decline including the type and level of the disability.
A diabetic senior citizen could go into a feat when hungry; dementia can lead to forgetfulness resulting in noncompliance with instructions.
Any of these behaviors and many others could make the caretaker resentful and revengeful leading to neglect.
Also, the caretaker may be having a problem of his own that could cause neglect of the duty. For example Drugs, alcohol, overwork, etc. could cause forgetfulness, going late to work, or not going to work at all.
Elder Coercion Abuse
This simply means the use of various types of forceful or deceitful actions or threats to make the elderly person behave in a way that violets his or her free will.
One good example is using threats to force the elderly to give up her social security checks to the bully or have his way with the helpless old lady.
The abuse is so rampant that there is a law against it.
Perpetrators use different methods to effect this crime: verbal is the use of words to degrade or put the elderly to shame or make him feel worthless, forcing him to yield to the demands of the abuser.
It could be material where the abuser could withhold food, medicine, etc. But in each case, the forced action is not in the interest of the elderly person.
This crime can happen in care centers or even in the homes of the elderly.
The main perpetrators of this crime are usually the relatives of the elderly.
Why? They know the type of person the elderly are and what to do to twist the mind to give up his possessions including, money the elderly have and the type of diseases the elderly are suffering from.
You can see that those suffering from any of the forms of dementia are the most likely victims.
This crime is rarely reported until it is too late. Some aging seniors may not even be aware of what happened to them.
Just imagine the mess it would be if the perpetrator is given the financial power of attorney!
Emotional/Psychological Elder Abuse
Emotional/Psychological elder abuse is one of the least detectable and reported particularly if the elder is very feeble with cognitive abilities long gone.
Besides, the abuse does not leave any evidence, physical or otherwise.
Like other elder abuse, it occurs among family members and other caregivers. So, what is it or how can it be recognized?
Simply stated: any act, unintentionally or intentionally, that results in emotional suffering or pain to a senior citizen.
With this definition, we can see that fear, nervousness, and undue agitations, etc. will qualify as and indicate that emotional abuse was taking place.
This is a sad situation, of course!
Do you wonder why a trusted loved one or a relation of the elder senior could subject her aging father or mother to this type of cruelty?
The causes may be two-fold from the caregiver or the elderly person.
Drugs, alcohol, personal problems can make a caregiver irritable turning him into a mean and callous person, who, without reason or provocation, can yell, screaming, and even insult the elder he was supposed to protect.
Some caretakers can go as far as treating the elderly person as if he or she were a child.
The elderly also can cause abuse through unacceptable behaviors towards the caretaker, like being abusive.
The first thing to notice in any senior citizen going through emotional or psychological abuse would be changed in behavior including a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness, followed by fear and anxiety.
The damages elder abuse can cause to elders can be enormous. As detailed above many go undetected and under-reported, unfortunately.
Also, most of the crimes are committed by the caregivers who are in most cases, relations of the senior citizen.
Just imagine the faith of an elderly person abandoned in a care center, at the hands of these evil people?
Even their conditions don’t make matters these problems worse: some are so confused that nobody will believe them, making elder abuse go undetected and unpunished.
The relations of the elder person should be on constant watch of any signs of abuse through and avoid isolating the elderly persons.
They must keep their loved one active and be checking up on him constantly and looking for signs of abuse like mood changes.
Thanks for your time in reading this post. And I hope, now, you gained more knowledge about different forms of elderly abuse – how to detect it and how to respond to the crime.
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