Elder abuse and neglect
Elder abuse and child abuse are equally disturbing. Often, an elderly person is placed in the care of a facility that has the medical capabilities to provide them with the care they need as they near the end of their life. Other families choose to keep their elderly loved ones close to them at home and either hire home care to assist with them or care for them themselves. Whatever the location though, it is a sad reality that many elderly people suffer abuse and neglect at the hands of their caregivers. Since they are in such a vulnerable position of being dependent on another person for every-day tasks like using the restroom, eating and drinking, changing clothes, and taking the proper medications at the right time, the abusers are often able to get away with it because the abused person is too fearful to say anything.
What are the risks involved in elder abuse and neglect?
- Caregiver stress: Taking care of a fully grown adult who is unable to take care of themselves is an incredibly stressful responsibility. Having the ability to cope with this responsibility can directly impact whether or not abuse or neglect takes place. People deal with stress in different ways and unfortunately, the elderly person may suffer the consequences if the way their caregiver is dealing with their stress is taking it out on them.
- Illness: Sometimes the elder person is neglected because the caregiver is unable or unwilling to properly address their illness.
- Social Isolation: When the elder person does not have a social circle of people to act as a sort of checks and balance system to ensure proper treatment; If there are no family members to visit often, or friends to notice any differences in mood or behavior, physical signs of abuse, or declining health due to neglect, the abuser may be more confident in their ability to abuse them.
- Previous abuse or domestic violence: Someone who has been previously abused may not say anything about current abuse especially if nothing was done about the previous abuse, they may feel that saying something will make the abuse worse if nothing is done again.
- Elder person’s physical aggression or verbal abuse: there are instances where the elder person will be physically or verbally abusive to their caregivers. Often this happens with dementia or Alzheimer’s patients who don’t understand what is going on and who is taking care of them. These patients may be at a higher risk for abuse or neglect themselves. A caregiver may act out in anger rather than patience, or they may just ignore the elder person altogether.
Types of Abuse
Abuse is not only physical. It can be emotional, physical, sexual, neglect, and financial exploitation.
Signs of abuse and neglect
As a concerned family member or friend, there are signs to look for when trying to determine if your loved one is being abused. Some of these include (but are not limited to):
- changes in behavior or personality such as depression, unexplained crying, rocking, mumbling to themselves
- Unusual weight fluctuations
- Malnutrition or dehydration
- Unexplained injuries, bruises, scars, cuts or scrapes etc.
- broken bones or sprains
- broken eyeglasses
- drug overdose
- caregiver refuses to let you see elder alone or otherwise acts suspicious
- unexplained STDs
- vaginal or anal bleeding
Preventing the abuse or neglect of your loved ones can be done by simply keeping these three things in mind.
- Listen: Listening to both the elder and their caregivers. Allowing them a safe place to express any concerns that they may have will go a long way for both parties. Allowing a caregiver to express how they are stressed and what can be done to relieve some of that stress may save a lot of heartache later.
- Intervene: If you suspect elder abuse, SAY SOMETHING. As we stated above, sometimes the elderly person will not say anything because they are afraid. Whether they were threatened verbally or retribution was implied, they may not feel that they can say anything. Just as with child abuse, some elderly may need an advocate to speak for them.
- Educate: Helping to teach others about the signs of elder abuse, how to prevent it, and how to report it, will in and of itself prevent abuse. The more people who can hold accountable potential abusers, the less safe they will feel about inflicting their abuse.
Taking Action | Oklahoma City Attorneys Brown and Gould, PLLC
No elder person should be physically, emotionally, psychologically, or financially threatened or harmed. If you suspect a loved one is suffering abuse or neglect, call the attorneys at Brown and Gould, PLLC, at 405-235-4500 or contact us online.