Aware Senior Care Blog

 How Can Elder Abuse be Prevented? Here's How.

How Can Elder Abuse be Prevented? Here's How.

Just imagine for a moment - you’re a senior living in a nursing home, in an assisted living facility, or at home with a professional caregiver. Your mobility is severely limited, your mental faculties aren’t as sharp as they used to be, and you have to rely on people you don’t even know to take care of you.

Seniors that find themselves in situations like these are vulnerable in a number of ways. Elder abuse is a real and serious problem. So, what can you do to prevent it?

The first thing you can do to help is to learn the definition of elderly abuse and recognize the signs and symptoms.

Believe it or not, elderly abuse is more than just physical harm. Elders can be abused physically, verbally, sexually, and financially. Caregiver neglect is also a form of elder abuse and is just as serious as the others, if not more so.

Let’s take a look at each type of elderly abuse and their symptoms so we can get a better understanding of it all. Then, we will discuss the different ways that you can prevent elder abuse.

Types of Elder Abuse and Their Symptoms

Physical abuse

The older you get, the more susceptible you become to injury. Seniors should not be handled roughly under any circumstances and yet one out of ten Americans age 60 and above have experienced some form of elder abuse. If you think an older adult is being physically abused, look for the following signs:

  • Bruising on the skin, especially in the form of hand prints
  • Unexplained cuts, burns, or other injuries
  • Flinching with any physical contact
  • Refusal to get medical help for injuries

Verbal abuse

This is a form of elder abuse that can easily be overlooked. Verbal abuse can be difficult to notice because it most likely doesn’t happen when others are around, and it leaves no physical evidence behind. But, there are a few signs to look for. Here they are:
 
  • The older adult begins to isolate themselves
  • Shows changes in behavior
  • Avoids certain people and events
  • Has irrational fears and suspicions

Sexual abuse

Seniors are also at risk of being taken advantage of sexually, especially when they are limited by physical and mental ailments. Here are a few major red flags to look out for:
 
  • Vaginal and/or anal bleeding
  • Bloody and/or torn underwear
  • Bruises on the breasts and/or buttocks

Financial abuse



This is a form of elder abuse we’ve discussed on this blog, specifically online and phone scams that use social engineering to confuse and frighten the elderly into making harmful financial transactions. Seniors can suffer from diminished mental capabilities and scammers take advantage of these deficiencies to extort money from them.

Here are the signs that you should be on the lookout for:
 
  • Unexplained bank account withdrawals and disappearing money
  • Forged signatures on checks
  • Changes in legal documents, such as wills and bank accounts
  • Sudden concern and/or worry expressed about finances by senior
  • The senior starts a relationship/friendship with a new companion, either online or in person, that frequently contacts them and asks for information. They might make demands for money immediately or request their investment in a company (that probably doesn’t exist)

Neglect

The elderly are often in a position where they rely on others to take care of them. They need people who can keep them well fed, clean, and more. This responsibility can be handled by a professional when caring for a senior becomes too much work for the family and they need some help.
 
Whether the senior is living at home, in an assisted living facility, or a nursing home, it should be a safe, clean, and friendly environment. But, due to a lack of professionalism or understaffing (in assisted living or nursing homes), the result can be elder neglect.

  • Increased weight loss
  • Poor hygiene such as not bathing, messy hair, not brushing their teeth, etc.
  • Lack of needed medical aids such as hearing aids, walker, or even medications
  • Being left unsupervised if the senior has dementia
  • Sunken facial features

How Can Elder Abuse Be Prevented?

If your elderly family member is being cared for by a professional nurse or caregiver, you might think that preventing elder abuse is out of your control. However, care by licensed caregivers and medical professionals by no means guarantees the safety of your loved one. 

By getting involved and communicating with the caregiving team for a senior, you can eliminate these risks from the start. 

Additionally, with this article, we have already done the first and most important step in preventing elder abuse: learning the signs and symptoms. Now that you know what you should be looking for, here are some preventative measures you can take to stop elder abuse before it begins.

Build and maintain good relationships



By building and maintaining a good relationship with your elderly family member, you build trust. When they feel they can trust you, they are more likely to tell you if they are having any problems with their care. You will also be able to keep tabs on what they are up to and how they are doing.
 
It can also help to build and maintain good relationships with the staff as well. By doing so, the staff are better equipped to ensure that your elderly family member gets the quality care that they need. 
 
Call and visit often, and get to know the caregivers and staff (if applicable) as well as you can. This will go a long way in preventing elder abuse.

Encourage them to be social, attend events, and stay active

Humans are naturally social creatures, and isolation can lead to a lot of problems such as depression and loneliness, which makes them more susceptible to abuse. 

Encourage them to be social by attending events put together by a local senior center, going to church services if they’re religious, or even going out to lunch with family. 

Help them find volunteer opportunities that can make them feel connected to their community and give them a sense of accomplishment by doing good.
 
Another thing that can help prevent abuse is encouraging them to stay active. There are a variety of low-impact exercise options available to seniors to help maintain their health. Just going for a walk, if they are able, can boost their energy, keep their mind sharp, and thus make them more independent. 

If they don’t have to rely as heavily on others, this can really go a long way in cutting abuse off from the source. Plus, they can defend themselves better if they are stronger.

Keep up to date about their financial situation

Financial abuse can go unnoticed if the senior is unwilling or unable to communicate with their family about it. Keep an eye on their bank account and any financial or legal documents. 

Encourage your elderly family member to keep up with their own finances and if they need help with it, make sure they get help from a family member they can trust.
 
Also, be sure to warn your elderly family member of solicitors. Scams aren’t limited to the ones we mentioned earlier. Stay up to date on reports of scams so you know what to watch out for. Just recently, a Duke Energy scam has made the rounds in North Carolina.

Report all abuse to the proper authorities


Finally, the best way to prevent future abuse is to stop it at its source. If you know an elderly loved one is being abused, do not hesitate to report it. 

If your family member is in immediate or life-threatening danger, call the police or 911. If the abuse not life-threatening, contact your local adult protective services branch. Licensed home care agencies, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes are mandated reporters and are required to report all signs of abuse.

You can also help raise awareness of elder abuse by joining support groups and spreading the word.

Now that you are informed, help stop elder abuse in its tracks and enhance the lives for seniors in your life!
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