Home Adaptations for Independent Living


The Problem of Elder Abuse

Posted on June 15, 2011 at 7:26 AM
America is aging at a tremendous rate.  10,000 people in the U.S. turn 65 every day, a rate that will continue for 20 years.  By 2050, over 20% of Americans will be over the age of 65.  Unfortunately, elder abuse is a growing problem.
Elder mistreatment is defined as intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm (whether or not harm is intended) to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trust relationship to the elder. This includes failure by a caregiver to satisfy the elder’s basic needs or to protect the elder from harm. The specificity of laws varies from state to state, but broadly defined, abuse may be:
  • Physical - Inflicting, or threatening to inflict, physical pain or injury on a vulnerable elder, or depriving them of a basic need.
  • Emotional - Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts.
  • Sexual - Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
  • Exploitation - Illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a vulnerable elder.
  • Neglect - Refusal or failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care or protection for a vulnerable elder.
  • Abandonment - The desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
Elder abuse can affect people of all ethnic backgrounds and social status and can affect both men and women.  Victims of elder abuse are known to experience depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Elders who experienced mistreatment, even modest mistreatment, had a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who had not been mistreated. 
Sadly,  it is known that in 90% of all reported elder abuse cases the abuser is a family member. Researchers have estimated that anywhere from five to twenty-three percent of all caregivers are physically abusive. Most agree that abuse is related to the stresses associated with providing care.
While we don't know all of the details about why abuse occurs or how to stop its spread, we do know that help is available for victims. Know the warning signs of a possible problem so that you can make a call for help if an elder is in need of assistance. 
While a single sign does not necessarily indicate abuse, some tell-tale signs that there could be a problem are:
  • Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
  • Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation.
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect.
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person
If you think someone is in danger,contact the Eldercare Locator for state specific information at 1-800-677-1116. 
      Susan Luxenberg
     HomeSmart LLC

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