elderly-womans-faceDid you know, according to AARP estimates, as many as 1 in 10 adults age 60 or over may be victims of elder abuse? It’s one of the leading issues facing older Americans today and is all too often suffered in silence. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15) was designated by the United Nations to provide us an opportunity to exchange ideas, discuss solutions, and shine the light on this growing problem.

What Is Elder Abuse?

In addition to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, mistreatment can include neglect, exploitation, and abandonment. While the obvious warning signs are bruises, burns, and fractures, there are other red flags including:

  • Sudden or unexplained withdrawal from typical activities
  • Poor hygiene, bedsores, unattended medical needs, frequently recurring UTIs
  • Unexpected changes in financial situation
  • Unusual depression or changes in behavior or personality
  • Weight loss
  • Strained or tense relationships between caregiver and elder
  • Verbal threats, demeaning comments, or obvious abuse of power and control

Getting Help

Because elder abuse takes on many forms and often goes unreported, it’s important to be attentive to changes like those mentioned above. If you suspect an issue, a good place to start is with your state’s Adult Protective Services agency, which can be located via the National Center on Elder Abuse website.

For suspected cases of abuse in nursing homes and care facilities, your long-term ombudsman can be an extremely helpful resource. The federal Older Americans Act requires all states to have an ombudsman program where you’ll find advocates trained to assist with complaints and problem resolution.

What Can You Do?

For those wanting to get more involved, here are a few ways to do so.

  • Help the seniors in your life be savvy with their finances. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has partnered with the FDIC to offer “Money Smart for Older Adults”, free downloadable educational materials created with seniors in mind.
  • Check out the National Association of Triads, and start a grassroots organization aimed at keeping seniors safe. Law enforcement officials, elders, and community groups partner to form a Triad, offering education and support at a local level.
  • Look into becoming a volunteer ombudsman.
  • Visit AARP’s Create the Good website to find volunteer opportunities in your area.
  • Voice your concerns to elected officials and ask for their support.
  • Reach out to an elderly neighbor and offer companionship or volunteer as a “buddy” at a nearby nursing home.
  • Do you know a family caring for a loved one at home? Are you able to offer respite care to give the primary caregiver a break? Just a few hours each week can do wonders for reducing stress. If that won’t work, how about offering to take care of yard work or grocery shopping to help ease their load?

According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 9 of the world’s inhabitants today are age 60 or over, and the projection for 2050 jumps to 1 in 5. With numbers like that, we can all agree that elder abuse is a problem that simply cannot be ignored. The first step is acknowledging and talking about it.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so please leave a comment to share your opinions and ideas.

7 Comments

  1. Josephine Dewberry

    My brother is a victim of elderly abuse at a nursing facility. For a month, I have talked with the nursing staff about concerns of weight loss, vomiting, and him losing strength in his legs and they advised me that 1. I was not his care giver 2. that the doctors on staff had checked him and ran tests that showed no medical issues. On Monday I took him by car to emergency at a local hospital and he was diagnosed as having cancer which blood work would have shown, stroke which would have explained the drooling and his mouth being twisted and him not being able to walk. My brother is also mentally challenged and 58 years old. It is hard breaking for the family and we do not want any family to go through what we are now experiencing. I want answersd! What can I do to see that the doctors at this facility are reprimanded!

  2. Ivette

    Everybody is concerned about elder abuse; however, nobody cares about caregiver abuse. No one protects us! My mother lives with me and she has become abusive to me and her CNA both verbally and physically. I’ve had to call he police several times and Emergency Services… they do nothing. APS doesn’t want to get involved. She needs to go to the mental hospital for further evaluation, but since when the police comes or the Social Worker from Community Services see her, she acts pleasant… they say they can’t do anything. On top of everything, she refuses to move to a nursing home… she says she wants to stay to bother me. Life for my 2 kids and me is hell.

    • J.Bailey

      My remarks are not specific to your circumstance but general notations from expeerience and observation of innergenerational families in crisis.

      Copeing with and aged parent that is abusive is extreamly difficult situation. Often the abuse is not solely related to “ageing” and in fact are long standing disfuncional relationship/s. Many times these relationships are known to the family and caregivers are abandoned to cope alone. Often Caregivers are the most dependent/available family member and withdrawing from a disfunctional arrangement can be difficult and require planning exit stratedies as in any other situation that is abusive or if it is easier to face simily not in the best interest of everyone involved. . When you add the layer of also having to address the welfare of children, or even other adult children, or spouses it gets even more difficult. It is a family problem that will best be resolved with a family approach. If one does not define family as a single direction relationship but as a two way relationship with the seniors involved then it may be easier to see when the relationship has become only onesided, or at least unreasonably inequitable, and changes need to be made.

      Even Seniors that have declined where they can not or will not make it a reciprocal relationship have the “natural consequence ” of haveing the relationship ammended. Hopefully it is done with as much calm and planning and consideration as possible but that is not always possible sometimes abandonment is required. Certainly preferable to someone or several people ending up in a crisis that often involves police involvement and injuries. Seniors are capable of committing serious crimes and can take down an entire family if things are allowed to deteriorate badly enough.

      Threatening abandonment is useless and will only exacerbate the sitiuation. Since most people who are abandoned in hospitals are often “turffed to the curb” or simply transported to their last known address it is rarely an answer that works. It usually enrages extened family, can have very negative backlash from the “community”, and if the Senior is harmed can result in serious legal consequences it is not a choice anyone should consider when asking for intervention is more productive. Way less costly too.

      While adults can choose to subject themself to abuse it is illegal to subject minor or dependent children to such abuse and you may have to seek relocation assistance from a domestic violence program. Mental illness, especially when it is abusive, is a criteria for intervention of the family court and can result in children being placed in foster care or loss of custody. Often it’s direct result is a child that will fail in school, run away, have a premature pregnancy, use drugs, and or commit suicide so it is NOT a situation to ignore. Believe me how you allow your Parent to treat you is also how your child will eventually treat you. . Just because it is “Grandma” that is out of control does not make it anymore illegal than if it was an out of control adolecent or “partner”. Leaveing a dependent Senior in the care of a Minor is also a crime.

      The fact that the abuse can be “controlled” to put on a good front suggests that it is more criminal than a medical problem. Depending on the behaviors you may have an easy or difficult time documenting it. Keeping a journal can help as will pictures videos and any documentation you might have on “paper”. If you have evidence of destroyed property, injuries, better yet witnesses you are going to have a better chance at intervention. Helping professionals are not stupid and if they are communicated with on a calm and rational basis regularly and you have follow through they can help you. Your county Mental Health facility can help a great dea often on slideing scale. As can your Senior “Nurse Line” on the insurance card or Adult Protective Services.. Especially if it means an aged senior is going to be forced into residential treatment or abandoned by and overwhelmed family.

      A lot of who is relocated has to do with who owns the home in which you live. And if you have established a tenant relationship by accepting a rent share from your Mother. If you have the process of removeing her can become extreamly difficult requireing a number of steps to have her evicted. A very good reason for always having a time limited formal written lease with ANY family member you allow to live in your home. You are not required by law to allow a parent to live in your home if you choose to tell them to leave. If they are disabled and have no place to go you may have a more difficult time evicting them but if you ask a police officer to remove her they have to do it. Sometimes this procedural step can actually make it possible for the displaced family to be availed support services. Or even placements that do not exist if they are not technically “homeless”.

      What can speed up out of home placement in the care of a mentally ill/medically fragile senior is pulling together all the necessary documentation for your states Long Term Care MediCal. This is a seperate program from MediCal (commonly called Welfare) but it is often required by Skilled Nurseing Facilities that know that even a sort period of placement will deplete the Elder Persons insurances and financial assets. The Good news is if there are family members who jointly own the home they can not bedisplaced and if there is any reasonable expectation that the Elder could be rehabilitated and returned home they would not take the home. If a Caregiver has been in that role Five years generally they are allowed to inherit the home. Individual states may vary and laws are quickly changeing since we are having a Senior Care Tusumi on the care programs.

      When family displacemnet is done in a hostile situation it may result in having the family member being removed to care unknown to the balance of the family but it does not always have to be that way so trying to avoid this is superior solution for everyone. Even an angry burned out Caregiver can really may have tremendous stress from the seperation after some time off and panic because they don’t know the facts of out of “home” after care.

      Usually if this a hostile removal this is best handled by a Public Affiars Officer with the assistance of a Menatal Health Ombudsman/ Counselor who can often help arrange substitute living arrangements and take her out early in the day during business hours when she is more likely to make a smoother transition to a shelter or Boared and Care Home, or even a hospital for evaluations pending skilled care placement. It also allows for the children of the family to be out of the home. And or the Primary Care giver to have support services. AND the prevention of injuries to anyone involved. A paniced or enraged Senior being removed from the ‘Home” can say or do almost anything includieing have a medical crisis.

      If the case is you are living in your Mother’s property that you do not have a lease that establishes your rights and responsibilities, personal spaces, as a tenant things can be more complicated. Even when you live with family you do have tenant rights. She can not physically , financially, or in some definitions emotionally harrass you, intimidate you, or if she is mentally ill actually contract with you so you may want to talk to your communities tenant relations board. You can get a referral from any .ATT phone by dialing 211. Along with a host of other resources for alternative living arrangements and plan a less traumatic exit. Defineing ones living sitiuation as ” living Hell” is an excellent reason to change your living situation. And will sooner or later end in no good way. If it results in the injury, even self inflicted, it can result in the incargeration of the Caregiver and lots of legal liabilities that can live long past the life of the Elder.

      Or as live in caregiver you have employment rights (protections). You may have to do some research at your local county law library or talk to the local labor office to see what is applicable in your situation. One thing is certain you want to document that her entire benifits from Social Security and Insurance are in Fact being used for her sole benifit (or it is fraud) and whatever Money that is transferred to you is for a documented care and as taxable income/wages. Going through your In Home Support Services Program is a smart move for all parites involved. .

      Also the Alliance for the Mentally Ill and the Alzhemiers SOciety can help you learn about living with a person who is mentally ill and explain more of the procedural steps either at meetings, convferences, or online, or a variety of publications.

      We don’t age over night and being prepared to cope does not happen over night.

      Also local community Senior Programs can offten help diffuse the situation by helping you create a saftey net of resources. One I would HIGHLY recommend is the Federally funded PACE programs or other Adult Day Care Programs that may actually give everyone the much needed break with professional support services that are not only helpful but enjoyable for loved ones.

      • Ivette

        Thanks for your comments. It seems the laws in Virginia are very protective of the elderly. No nursing home will take her against her will, even though am her guardian. She just was rejected from one because they’re afraid she’ll strike at the other residents. Social worker explained that the animosity/hatred is towards me. She needs to be stabilized first, but won’t take her pshyc meds. I can’t get family court involved, I can’t have my kids removed to foster care (it will be devastating for them, just as much as the present environment). She has been accepted to a program for mentally ill seniors, but the problem is getting her stabilized! You can’t reason with her. Her own primary care doctor told me a couple of years ago to take her to the ER and tell the social worker that I can’t handle her. That was his response when asked for his help to get some evaluation to gain her guardianship. Of course, I didn’t do that. She is verbally and physically abusive to the CNAs. They document on their timesheets. APS has never had to remove an elderly person from a home, so they don’t want to try help me… too much work I guess. She’s praying now for God to take me before I lose my soul (which is not the first time she’s wished my death). She knows me and the boys are going away and has been doing everything in her power to mess my plans. She’s praying for something to happen so the trip can’t take place. In her twisted mind she thinks that if I die, anyone will take the boys and she’ll remain in the house. When the CNA told her that the house and everything belongs to the kids her response was they weren’t my kids (they’re adopted). She professes herself to be a born-again christian, going to Church, reading her Bible, singing hymns, but resenting the daughter that she says “loves” so much, wishing all kinds of bad stuff, etc. Is sad that the law is really not protecting her. The laws in my state protect the insane…..

  3. Kristhea

    Andrea, thank you for your comment. I have never wroekd’ in a Home, but have spent about 30 years volunteering my time in various Homes, and your comments are share by others that I know. I am in the final stages of publishing an article on finding a Nursing Home for those who are looking to find alternative places for their love ones to live, and comments like yours are definitely being treated in this article. Blessings!

  4. Alice

    Good article and useful information. Elder abuse is something that needs to be checked and addressed properly.

  5. Elisa

    Elder abuse occurs for a number of reasons, and many people assume that by choosing what would be considered a professional facility that their loved ones will be cared for well, but this sadly is not always the reality of things. One of the reasons elder abuse continues to be an issue is that many people are not educated on what constitutes elder abuse. For instance, a sign of neglect could be bed sores, however many family members don’t know about bed sores and how to avoid them, therefore they may not understand that bedsores are a sign that faculty is failing to move the resident at regular intervals. Other times, family members may fail to read the signs either by choice or due to ignorance. An elderly family member who is showing signs of withdrawal, depression, or a demeaning attitude may be doing so because they are being abused. Family members on the other hand may choose to assume the person is simply old and ornery so they don’t know what they’re talking about, this attitude is known as ageism, and it has to do with a prejudice that many people in America have for the elderly. It is difficult as a family member to care for an elderly person, whether that means being the primary are taker, or being the overseer, but either way educating one’s self on the sing of abuse are extremely important.

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