June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
With a growing population of older adults, and as longevity increases, abuse of the elderly is an increasing problem that affects health and human rights. While it’s difficult to imagine that anyone would put your loved one in harm’s way, elder abuse is a widespread problem.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) serves as a call-to-action for communities to raise awareness about the processes contributing to elder abuse. Elder abuse can encompass a multitude of forms, including financial exploitation, neglect, etc.
What encompasses elder abuse?
The older adult population is particularly susceptible to abuse due to the many physiological changes that come with aging. Memory loss, mobility issues, and loss of independence are some of these factors. It’s therefore important to be aware of the ways that elder abuse can occur in order to prevent it from happening.
1. Physical abuse is an act that inflicts pain, injury, or impairment on an older adult. This can include hitting, slapping, kicking, pushing, and burning
2. Financial abuse occurs when money is misused or withheld from an elderly person’s funds or property by another party. This can include forging checks, stealing money, accessing bank accounts or credit cards without permission, and taking an elder’s retirement or Social Security benefits.
3. Neglect occurs when a caregiver purposely does not respond to the older adult’s basic needs. This can mean denying them medication, shelter, hygiene, food, therapeutic devices, or access to healthcare.
4. Emotional abuse inflicts mental despair or anguish on an older adult. Examples of this are verbal threats, yelling, humiliation, and isolating the elderly person.
5. Sexual abuse means engaging in an elderly person without their consent. This can include physical sexual acts, showing the older adult pornographic material, and any other type of sexual harassment.
What are some signs of elderly abuse?
· Physical signs: Some physical signs of elder abuse include dehydration or unusual weight loss, missing daily living aids such as glasses or hearing aids, unexplained injuries, bruises, cuts, or sores, unsanitary living conditions and poor hygiene, and unattended medical needs.
· Emotional and behavioral signs: These can include increased fear or anxiety, isolation from friends or family, unusual changes in behavior or sleep patterns, and withdrawal from normal activities.
· Financial signs: Some of the financial signs of elder abuse include fraudulent signatures on financial documents, unpaid bills, and unusual or sudden changes in spending patterns, will, or other financial documents.
How can you prevent it?
Education is a critical part of preventing elder abuse.
As a caregiver, here are some ways to prevent this from happening:
· Take care of your own emotional needs. Stress is a major contributor to elder abuse and neglect. Seek respite from other caregivers and take regular breaks when caring for an older adult.
· Monitor the older adult’s medications to ensure that they are getting the correct dosage, and check prescription dates for renewal.
· Listen to older adults and caregivers about their concerns and challenges and provide necessary support.
· Check in often with an older adult who may have few friends and family members.
· Seek help with any drug or alcohol abuse that may be preventing an older adult from receiving proper care.
An elderly person can also take action to ensure their own safety:
· Enlist a professional to get your financial affairs in order, and make sure you have a living will that you review periodically.
· Post and open your own mail.
· Do not give out any personal information over the phone.
· Use direct deposit for all checks.
· Know your rights—you have the right to voice any of your preferences and concerns.
If you or your loved one suspect elderly abuse, don’t hesitate to report the situation. Call 9-1-1 if you or someone you know is in immediate danger.
Elder abuse an issue that continues to plague the older adult population, and robs seniors of their dignity and security. Happier at Home is a trusted company that prides itself on keeping your senior loved one safe and independent in their own homes. Check out more of our services here.