Senior Security: Elder Abuse

elder abuse - older americans month

Adapted from the CDC

Each year, hundreds of thousands adults over the age of 60 are abused, neglected or financially exploited. That’s right – hundreds of thousands. 

Elder abuse is experienced by about 1 out of every 10 people aged 60 and older, who live at home. The shocking thing is that this statistic is likely an underestimate because many victims are unable or afraid to disclose or report the violence.

What is Elder Abuse?

  • Physical Abuse – use of physical force that results in acute or chronic illness, bodily injury, physical pain, functional impairment, distress, or death.
  • Sexual Abuse – forced or unwanted sexual interaction of any kind with an older adult.
  • Emotional Abuse – verbal or non-verbal behavior that results in the infliction of anguish, mental pain, fear or distress.
  • Neglect – failure by a caregiver or other responsible person to protect an elder from harm, which results in a serious risk of compromised health and safety.
  • Abandonment
  • Financial Abuse – illegal, unauthorized, or improper use of an older individual’s resources by a caregiver or other person in a trusting relationship.

There are many risk factors that make seniors more vulnerable to Elder Abuse. Understanding the factors can help identify various opportunities for prevention.

Some examples include:

Caregiver: Diagnosis of mental illness, hostility, poor caregiver training, inadequate coping skills, or previous exposure to abuse.

Relationship: Financial or emotional dependence on vulnerable elder, lack of social or formal support.

Society: In a culture where there is a high tolerance of aggressive behavior or where caregivers are expected to care for elders without seeking outside help.

Protection and Prevention

It’s important for the elder to have numerous strong relationships with people of varying social status and outside his or her immediate family.

On a community level, a caregiver or vulnerable elder can coordinate resources and services with outside agencies to ease the caregiving process. Higher levels of community cohesion and a strong sense of community identity can help encourage an elder to report abuse.

In a facility, effective monitoring systems, policies and procedures regarding patient care, and regular training can help employees note the signs.

If you suspect elder abuse, call 911. You can report elder abuse to adult protective services or your Long Term Care Ombudsman. More resources here. 

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