Elderly people become frailer and less able to stand up for themselves if they are being abused by someone. Many times they are abused in their own homes, a relative’s home, or even a care facility. There are more than half a million reports of abuse against the elderly each year in the United States alone and sadly millions more go unreported.
At first, the abuse may not be recognized. It may appear to be symptoms of conditions like dementia or signs the person is becoming frailer. There is a couple warning signs to watch for if you feel your loved one is being abused. They are:
- Frequent arguments between the caregiver and the elderly person
- Tension between the caregiver and the elderly person
- Changes in the elderly persons personality or behavior
The abuse usually will take place where the elderly are living. Often times the abusers are their own adult children or other family member. However, abuse can also occur if the person is living in a long-term care facility. The abuse can occur in different forms. The most common types will be discussed below.
Physical abuse is defined as a non-accidental force again a person that results in pain, injury, or impairment. Such abuses are not only physical like hitting or shoving. It can also involve the inappropriate use of confinement, restraints, and drugs. Things to look for are:
- Unexplained injuries such as welts, scars, bruises, or strange skin marks.
- Broken bones
- Sprains or dislocations
- Failure to take medication as prescribed
- Drug overdose
- Broken glasses
- Signs that they have been restrained such as marks on their wrists
- The caregiver does not allow you to be alone with the elderly person
Emotional abuse occurs when the person is treated in ways that cause them emotional pain or distress. Forms of emothional abuse are as follows:
- Ignoring the person
- Intimidation through threats or loud outbursts that criticize
- Excssive teasing or ridicule
- Habitual blaming
- Terrorizing or menacing the person
Sexual abuse is any sexual contact with a person without their consent. This can involve physical acts of sex, showing the person pornography, forcing them to watch sexual acts, or forcing them to undress. Things to watch for are:
- Bruises around the genitals or breasts
- Unexplained infections of genital areas or sexually transmitted diseases
- Unexplained genital bleeding
- Torn, stained or bloody underclothing
Other things to watch out for that may suggest that an elderly person is being abused or neglected are:
- Unusual weight loss
- Untreated physical problems – ex. Bed sores
- Dirty living conditions
- Not being bathed
- Unsafe living conditions
If you suspect that an elderly person is being abused or neglected, you need to contact your local Adult Protective Services Agency in your county. When you contact them, make sure to be a specific as possible. The agency will send out a Social Worker to interview and look at the living conditions.