Elder abuse is never going to go away. It’s something that’s been a part of our existence for far too long and the best way to combat it is to know how to identify it. If you know a victim of elder abuse, then the best thing you can do for them is to alert the authorities. It’s very much a crime, and the more information you can offer them, the easier it will be for them to take care of the victim. The National Institute of Aging has a very important guide to understanding and identifying elder abuse.
Here are the different types of elder abuse, as defined by the NIA:
- Physical abuse happens when someone causes bodily harm by hitting, pushing, or slapping. This may also include restraining an older adult against his/her will, such as locking them in a room or tying them to furniture.
- Emotional abuse, sometimes called psychological abuse, can include a caregiver saying hurtful words, yelling, threatening, or repeatedly ignoring the older adult. Keeping that person from seeing close friends and relatives is another form of emotional abuse.
- Neglect occurs when the caregiver does not try to respond to the older adult’s needs. This may include physical, emotional, and social needs, or withholding food, medications, or access to health care.
- Abandonment is leaving an older adult who needs help alone without planning for his or her care.
- Sexual abuse involves a caregiver forcing an older adult to watch or be part of sexual acts.
- Financial abuse happens when money or belongings are stolen from an older adult. It can include forging checks, taking someone else’s retirement or Social Security benefits, or using a person’s credit cards and bank accounts without their permission. It also includes changing names on a will, bank account, life insurance policy, or title to a house without permission.
Victims of Elder Abuse
Most victims of elder abuse happen to be women, but men are still victimized on a regular basis. It’s also usually people who have no friends or family living near them. It makes it very easy for these people to be abused when no one is around to help them out or stand up for them. It almost always happens to people who depend on others for help with everyday activities, such as dressing, bathing, and taking medicine. These people typically appear frail and easy to abuse.
There are also many instances of financial abuse against elder. The NIA defines these abuse criteria as:
- Financial abuse is becoming a widespread and hard-to-detect issue. Even someone you’ve never met can steal your financial information using the telephone, internet, or email. Be careful about sharing any financial information over the phone or online — you don’t know who will use it.
- Financial neglect occurs when an older adult’s financial responsibilities such as paying rent or mortgage, medical expenses or insurance, utility bills, or property taxes, are ignored, and the person’s bills are not paid.
- Financial exploitation is the misuse, mismanagement, or exploitation of property, belongings, or assets. This includes using an older adult’s assets without consent, under false pretense, or through intimidation and/or manipulation.
- Health care fraud can be committed by doctors, hospital staff, or other health care workers. It includes overcharging, billing twice for the same service, falsifying Medicaid or Medicare claims, or charging for care that wasn’t provided. Older adults and caregivers should keep an eye out for this type of fraud.
Finally, here are the signs of elder abuse:
- Stops taking part in activities he or she enjoys
- Looks messy, with unwashed hair or dirty clothes
- Has trouble sleeping
- Loses weight for no reason
- Becomes withdrawn or acts agitated or violent
- Displays signs of trauma, like rocking back and forth
- Has unexplained bruises, burns, cuts, or scars
- Has broken eyeglasses/frames, or physical signs of punishment or being restrained
- Develops bed sores or other preventable conditions
- Lacks medical aids (glasses, walker, dentures, hearing aid, medications)
- Has an eviction notice for unpaid rent, notice of late mortgage, or home eviction
- Has hazardous, unsafe, or unclean living conditions
- Displays signs of insufficient care or unpaid bills despite adequate financial resources
If you think someone is being victimized, then you can do something to help. Call the Eldercare Locator at 800.677.1116. Additionally, you can visit ncea.acl.gov for more information on what you can do. Elder abuse is always going to be a problem, but you can do your small part to make sure that it’s not happening to someone you know.