Ensuring the proper care of elders and showing them respect is, in most cultures, a top priority and an honorable endeavor. Unfortunately, where our retirement age citizens are concerned, financial, physical, and emotional abuse occurs every day. Though the thought is unfathomable to some of us, it seems others have no scruples or conscience. Making matters even worse, all too often, elder abuse continues unabated and goes unreported.
It’s easier to take action against elder abuse when you know the signs of abuse or neglect.
Elder Abuse: What Is It?
Technically, when an individual 65 years of age or older is mistreated in such a way that it results in loss or harm, it is elder abuse. The following categories are included in elder abuse:
Elder abuse can happen anywhere including care facilities/nursing homes, clinics, hospitals, in homes, etc. What’s more, nearly anyone can commit elder abuse including healthcare aides/professionals, neighbors, friends, and family members. The latter is, sadly, the most frequent abuser.
Let’s examine the signs of each category of abuse.
The following are possible signs of elder neglect…
Behavioral red flags:
- Self-destructive behavior
- Fear toward a caregiver
- Regressive behavior
- Appearing emotionally numb or withdrawn
- Due to malnutrition, seems disoriented or confused
- Despair, crying, or other emotional distress signs
- Difficulty sleeping
- A chronic condition worsening inexplicably
- The absence of a necessary hearing aid, dentures, walker, brace, etc.
- Signs of dehydration
- Skin rashes
- Improperly clothed or unclothed
The following may be signs of emotional abuse…
- When the abuser is present, seeming afraid or appearing to cower
- Problems sleeping
- Strange behavior (the exhibition of which may be attributed, incorrectly, to dementia)
- Appearing withdrawn, nonresponsive, emotionally upset, or agitated
- Depression or confusion
Physical red flags:
- Rapid, unexplained weight gain or weight loss
- Appearing on edge, a hesitancy to be treated, or appearing outwardly anxious
- Unusually high blood pressure and/or other physical signs of abuse resulting in stress
The following are possible signs of financial abuse:
- A caregiver showing unexplained, excessive interest in how much the older adult spends or how much is spent on them
- Signatures that are supposed to be the victim’s but are suspicious looking
- Missing property
- Mail delivery from the victim’s bank has stopped
- New, sudden “best friends”
- Eviction notices and/or utilities shut off notices and/or unpaid bills
- From bank accounts, unexplained transfers, and/or withdrawals
The following may point to a scam, electronic fraud, or identity theft:
- For financial gain, and under false pretenses, someone has deceived the victim (these are cons and/or confidence crimes)
- Taking property or money from the victim
- Without permission, using the victim’s belongings
- Getting the victim to sign a power of attorney, will, deed, or other important documents using coercion, deception, or some other kind of undue influence
- Forging signatures
The following are possible signs of physical elderly abuse…
- The interval between the time an injury occurs and when it is actually treated ends up extended or delayed
- Regarding how injuries may have occurred, different parties give conflicting stories
- To avoid arousing suspicion, visits to multiple healthcare facilities
- An explanation that is not believable of how an injury occurred or no explanation whatsoever
- Over and over again, the same injuries keep occurring
Physical red flags:
- Tooth loss, hair loss, or other signs of trauma
- Bruises that don’t commonly happen by accident
- Dislocated, fractured, or broken bones
- Burns or abrasions that seem to be the result of restraints, straps, ropes, etc.