Elder abuse is defined as physical, emotional, sexual, or financial mistreatment or other intentionally negligent behavior towards the elderly by their caretakers or relatives. This is an unfortunate reality for many seniors, because they are relatively powerless to fight back against younger, more fit individuals as they age. With that said, let’s dive deeper into this trend and how we can stop it. Though we will present the figures that are currently available, it should be noted that statistics in this realm are sparse due to the under-reported nature of these incidents.
Caregiver Stress & Elder Abuse
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), a resource center directed by the Administration on Aging that has commissioned several reports on elder abuse, estimates from selected studies that 8-10% of seniors are abused or neglected yearly, with the likelihood of mistreatment increasing with the victim’s age and deterioration in health. And while many believe this kind of abuse is limited to the hands of outside caretakers or aides, nearly 90% of the victims reported that their abusers were family members or spouses.
Dealing with elderly relatives in deteriorating health can be stressful for family members, especially for those who act as primary caregivers with little or no emotional or financial support. Depression and anxiety rates hover around 35% for familial caregivers of seniors, while the rate jumps to nearly 46% for caregivers of elderly dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. While you may feel obligated to care for an elderly relative, doing so without proper support is not only potentially detrimental to your own health, but to your relative’s as well. We all know from personal experience that we are more likely to lash out at others when we are stressed. If you are unable to provide institutional or in-home help for your loved one, learn how to manage caregiver stress effectively. One option is to investigate options for respite care so that the primary caregiver can re-charge his/her batteries, thereby decreasing the likelihood of this unintentional abuse.
Institutional Abuse & Prevention
As a recent report found, 1 in 3 residents at a nursing home reported being abused. In another study, it was reported among surveyed seniors that 95% either experienced or witnessed neglect at the hands of nursing home staff. The instances of abuse in nursing and residential facilities ranges from typical physical abuse to medical abuse (such as forceful administration of medication) to emotional and psychological abuse, such as yelling, threatening, and ridiculing.
Even when you have thoroughly researched and vetted the institution where your loved one resides, it’s important to visit him or her regularly and be on the lookout for possible abuse or neglect. Common and observable signs of abuse include unusual bruising or bedsores, torn, bloody or soiled clothing or bedding, poor hygiene, sudden changes in weight and hair loss. Less observable signs of abuse can include emotional withdrawal, listlessness, unresponsiveness, or other strange behaviors that are not typical of your loved one. Financial mistreatment or abuse can also manifest itself in the disappearance of valuables, unusual transactions, or medical/insurance fraud. If you suspect abuse or negligence at a nursing home or residential facility, discuss concerns with management before alerting authorities. Find out how to file a complaint about a nursing home or its staff if you find grounds for your suspicions.
Use Your Judgement
You know your loved one better than his or her caregivers, so it’s important to stay involved in their care and remain on alert for possible mistreatment. Get educated about elder abuse in nursing facilities and find out how you can help prevent abuse from happening.