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Elder Abuse: How to Spot, Stop, and Prevent it

According to the National Council on Aging, 10% of Americans 60 and older have experienced some form of elder abuse. To protect our seniors, we need to advocate and report violations when we see them.

This blog will address the different types of elder abuse, the signs associated with each one, and what to do to prevent this problem in the first place.

 

What is Elder Abuse?

It is the infliction of physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual harm on an older adult.

Physical:         Force causing pain or injury to another person. Caregiver neglect also falls in this category where food, water, medications, and personal hygiene are withheld.

Verbal:            From name-calling to the silent treatment, it’s meant to intimidate or cause distress. It can also take the form of cursing or yelling.

Emotional:    This may come in the form of self-neglect where the individual chooses not to eat, self-medicates on drugs or alcohol, or refuses medical care.

Sexual:            Inappropriate touching, rape, or coerced nudity.

 

What are the Signs?

 

Physical Abuse

  • Unexplained bruising, cuts, or marks, especially on face, neck, arms, or feet
  • Asking for food and water when you see them
  • Visible weight loss
  • Sunken eyes
  • Missing items from their room such as medications, glasses, or hearing aids
  • Fearful or nonchalant attitude toward specific individuals, including denial of injuries

 

Verbal Abuse

  • Behavioral changes, such as isolation or unresponsiveness
  • Unreasonably suspicious or fearful of everyday activities

Emotional Abuse

  • Visible weight loss
  • The person is drunk or high when you visit
  • Refuses medical care
  • Lack of personal hygiene

Sexual

  • Vaginal or anal bleeding
  • Vaginal infections
  • Torn or bloody undergarments

 

What should you do if you spot it?

If you witness physical abuse, call 9-1-1.

Ohioans are required to report possible elder abuse by calling 1-855-OHIO-APS or contacting Job and Family Services (JFS). To find the nearest county JFS, visit jfs.ohio.gov/county. Physical proof or other evidence is not required. Reports can be made anonymously. However, if mandatory reporters (i.e., in-home care agencies, assisted living facilities) fail to report possible abuse, they may face criminal charges.

If your loved one lives in a facility, complain to the general manager or owner about what you suspect. If the issue remain remains unresolved, contact Ohio’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman to advocate on your behalf.

 

Five Prevention Strategies

 

  1. Have your elders stay with you or close by.
    If they are in your home, you can provide them with a safe environment. If this is not possible, have them stay in an assisted living facility close to your home or work. Stop by daily, but at various times, to ensure you can see different staff interactions.

     
  2. Set up a schedule with your siblings.
    Ask that everyone choose a day to stop by or call. Please encourage them to select a day to spend several hours or when telephone conversations are not rushed. Contact each other if abnormal behavior is exhibited or there are signs of abuse.

     
  3. Take your elder to community events.
    Having an active social life and staying in touch with family helps ward off isolation and depression. Something to look forward to can make their day.

     
  4. Make sure they stay active.
    According to Senior Living.com, staying active decreases the chances of abuse. Such activities include golf, tennis, hiking, camping, swimming, and yoga. These activities also curb depression and prolong a person’s life.

     
  5. Be selective with caregivers.
    Do a thorough screening, call references, and watch them interact with your loved one. Any sign of trouble is sure to release them and report problems to the authorities.

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