Unfortunately, elder abuse and mistreatment is a major problem in the United States. Approximately 1 in every 10 Americans above the age of 60 has experienced some form of elder abuse. Senior citizens are particularly at the risk of being exploited and abused in several ways including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, neglect and abandonment, financial exploitation, and confinement.
As most elders live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, it is the caregivers who are more likely to exploit and abuse them. However, the potential for elder abuse is not limited to nursing home staff. The perpetrators may include children, family members, neighbors and family friends.
According to National Council on Aging, elder abuse victims have a 300% higher risk of death compared to those who haven’t been mistreated. There are several ways in which you can help prevent elder abuse. Here are five tips to help you make sure your elder loved one is getting the best care possible in a nursing home.
- Increase the Public Awareness
Every year on 15th June, communities around the world celebrate the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Recognized by the United Nations, the day seeks to increase public awareness and support the elder abuse victims. The day brings you a great opportunity to spread awareness about this problem. You can organize social events such as dedicating a marathon or a bike race towards preventing elder abuse to raise your voice against elder abuse.
Increasing public awareness is a critical step in preventing elder abuse. By understanding the causes, risk factors and signs of elder abuse, you will stand a higher chance of preventing it. If you are a caregiver, you can train yourself and your colleagues to recognize the signs of abuse.
- Stay in Touch with Your Loved Ones
Most elders are victims of neglect which stems from isolation. It may lead to loneliness, sadness and depression increasing the chances of abuse. If your loved one is in a nursing facility, stay involved in the process. Make sure to visit your elderly parents as often as possible. Regular visits will certainly cheer them up. Try to be an active part of your loved one’s life. Family meetings can be an effective way of keeping in touch with your elderly parents. Sending letters, photos, emails, and Christmas cards is also a great way to keep in touch with elders.
- Hire a Caretaker with Excellent References and a Clean Background
Caregivers can play a critical role in preventing elder abuse, provided you have hired one with excellent references and a clean background. Hiring a caretaker with a history of violent behavior or substance abuse will increase the chances of elder abuse. Whether it’s for a family member serving as a caregiver or a professional, make sure the individual caring for your elderly parent gets a break every now and then.
- Check the Financial and Legal Matters
Financial exploitation is a fast-growing form of elder abuse. Ask your loved one if you may look over his/her financial records to make sure that everything is in order. You can appoint a professional such as a lawyer if the elder is unable to handle his/her finances. You should also inform him/her to be wary of telemarketing calls, email, lottery, and home repair scams. Tell him/her to seek the advice of a lawyer, a trusted family member or a friend before signing any important documents.
- Keep Your Loved Ones Active
By keeping an elder active, you can prolong his/her life and decrease the chances of abuse. Encourage your elderly parents to attend religious services and community activities. Make sure to involve them in a family activity such as a grandchild’s soccer match. You can also take them to community gatherings such as a local parade or a 4th of July event.
- Look for Signs of Abuse
Elder abuse is often hidden because most elders may not identify what’s happening to them as abuse. Following are the most common signs of elder abuse.
- Lack of interest in the activities he/she used to enjoy, unusual nervousness, feeling of loneliness, depression, confusion, and fear may indicate emotional abuse.
- Unexplained bruises, scratches, broken bones, and bed sores, restricted movement, and frequent falls may indicate physical abuse.
- Your loved one may appear thin, hungry, unclean and malnourished which may be the signs of neglect.
- Sudden patterns of spending or withdrawal from the older adult’s account is a sign of financial exploitation.
- Trauma including bleeding around genitals, chest, rectum or mouth can point to sexual abuse.
Whenever you visit them, look for signs of abuse and neglect. If you see any of these signs, you should report the incident immediately. In the United States, the first agency to respond to a report of elderly abuse is usually Adult Protective Services (APS). However, depending on the situation other agencies may step in to help you. Click here to know more about reporting nursing home abuse.
Elder abuse can take several forms including financial exploitation, nursing home neglect, physical, emotional and sexual abuse. It is estimated to cost American taxpayers tens of billions of dollars annually in healthcare, social services, and legal expenses. Prevention remains the best way to fight this problem as most cases go unreported. Several non-profit organizations and government agencies are actively working to prevent elder abuse. The above five tips will help you make sure that elders around you are treated with respect and love.
Andera Colon is a freelance writer and blogger from Chicago, IL who loves to write about varied topics including health, automobile, technology, and more. Currently, she is focusing on Law related topics. When she is not writing, she enjoys traveling with her friends and taking long walks on the beach.