What Is Elder Abuse
Elder abuse is when an elderly individual is emotionally, physically, sexually, or financially harmed by the people who care for them. Annually, over half a million cases of elder abuse are reported. There are also millions of cases that are unreported. The frailty of the elderly prevents them from taking care of themselves or standing up to abuse. As they get older, they may suffer from more ailments. As a result, family members may find it difficult to live with them. As their hearing and mental faculties diminish, they can be targets for unscrupulous people.
Elder abuse usually occurs at the elderly person’s place of residence. The abuser can be their children or partner. Abusers can sometimes even work at nursing homes. If you believe someone is suffering from elder abuse, speak up. There are, of course, some warning signs that can alert you to abuse.
Forms of Abuse
When it comes to abuse, you want to know the different ways someone can be abused. Being informed allows you to protect your loved one should they end up in a bad situations. Some forms of abuse are harder to notice than others. Other forms may cause more serious consequences. Regardless of the type of abuse your loved one may experience, it is important that you understand all of them.
Elder abuse can take on many forms. One type of abuse that is very harmful isemotional abuse, also known as psychological abuse. When an elderly person is emotionally abused, they are subjected to verbal harassment that may take the form of insults and yelling. According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization, one-third of nursing home staff disclosed that they emotionally abused the residents of the nursing home.
It can be hard to help your loved one if they are dealing with this. This is because victims of this form of abuse are afraid that if they speak up they will be retaliated against. They may also want to prevent their caregiver from getting in trouble. If you notice they are less communicative with you, this may be an indication that your loved one may be a victim.
Physical abuse us any harm or violence that causes significant injuries to the victim. Sometimes, it may take months for the victim to recover from the injuries. The victim may even die because of these injuries. Anyone that is close to the victim can cause physical abuse. For elderly individuals, physical abuse can lead to more serious health problems due to the elderly having weaker bodies.
Sexual abuse is when unwanted sexual acts are forced on the victim. When it comes to the elderly, this can be a big issue for those suffering from dementia or some other condition that prevents them from consenting to sex. Anyone can be sexually abusive, even the nursing home staff at your loved one’s residential home.
Another popular form of elder abuse is financial abuse. This is when money and/or valuables are stolen from an elderly person. Sometimes, older individuals need assistance with their finances. Those who suffer from dementia and mental decline may especially need help managing their finances. However, elderly individuals can sometimes trust people who are not interested in their best interest. A family member, caregiver, or friend could steal from an elderly person.
According to a US survey, 40% of nursing home staff said that psychologically abused a resident with 10% admitting to physical abuse. It was also reported that took away choices from residents they deemed aggressive. 1.5% of the staff in another study said that they stole from residents. More attention needs to be put on this issue because the older adults’ population is getting bigger. In 2015, adults over 59 years old made up 12.3% of the global population. By 2050, it is expected that they will make up 21.3%.
Between 2002 and 2016, over 643,000 adults of the older population were treated by the ER for assault. 19,000 homicides were also reported. Some groups are more vulnerable than others. Men are more likely to experience nonfatal assaults and homicides than women. From 2002 to 2016, the number of assaults for men increased by 75%. From 2007 to 2016, women experienced a 35% increase. Between 2010 and 2016, the male homicide rate went up by 7%. Non-Hispanic whites had the lowest homicide rate when compared to other demographics
Some groups have higher rates of abuse than others. Compared with women, men had higher rates of both nonfatal assaults and homicides. The rate for nonfatal assaults increased more than 75% among men (2002–2016) and more than 35% among women (2007–2016). The estimated homicide rate for men increased 7% from 2010 to 2016. Compared to non-Hispanic Whites, non-Hispanic Black or African American persons, non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaskan Natives, and Hispanic or Latino persons have higher homicide rates (2002–2016).
Although there seems to be many strategies for preventing elder abuse, there does not seem to be a lot of evidence on their effectiveness. The most promising strategies seem to be caregiver intervention, money management programs targeted at older adults, and emergency services like helplines and shelters. Although there is still a lot to lean about elder abuse, some countries have raised the alarm in both the health and social welfare sector.
Signs of Abuse and Neglect
There are a number of nursing home abuse scenarios that can occur. If you have a family member living in a nursing, here are five signs you can look out for:
1. Bruising That Cannot Be Explained
People who are elderly do sometimes bruise. However, unexplained injuries are usually a sign of abuse in the nursing home. If you notice your family member has scratches, fractures, or bedsores that cannot be explained, this may be a sign that your loved one is being abused. A disheveled appearance could also point to the fact that the caregiver is not taking care of your family member.
2. Abrupt Change in Mood
If you notice your family member has a sudden change in mood, this could point to nursing home abuse. Some signs to look out for are withdrawal and displays of anger that are out of the norm. Your loved one may suddenly feel anxious and depressed. They may also become fearful and embarrassed for reasons you cannot explain.
3. Rapid Weight Loss
Malnutrition and dehydration are two signs that your loved one may be suffering from elder abuse. If you notice they have lost a significant amount of weight, this may be a sign of neglect. They may also feel weaker than usual. Some signs of dehydration are dry mouth, dry lips, and less urination. You also want to make sure your loved one has more access to healthy food options.
4. Poor Hygiene
Poor hygiene is usually a clear sign that your family member is being neglected. If you notice their bedding or clothing is soiled, this could point to something wrong. An untidy room and an unwashed body show signs of neglect. Unclipped nails and poor dental hygiene may also indicate that your family member is not being taken care of properly.
5. Unusual Financial Changes
Although financial abuse is the common form of abuse, it can be difficult to detect until it is too late. Some signs to look out for are forged checks, withdrawals that weren’t authorized, and unpaid bills. Sometimes, the abuser will have the victim sign up for subscriptions or buy things they do not need. If you notice property or cash is missing, you may have a problem on your hands.
Actions to Take Against Suspected Abuse
If a person has power over your family member, or they have gained their trust, they can abuse them. The most common abusers are caregivers, family, friends, and even some professionals. If you have reason to believe your loved one is being abused, there are a few things you can do to get more information and help them get out of the situation.
You can check in. Don’t wait for your loved one to come to you as they may hesitate to tell you about any abuse they may have suffered out of fear. If you gently prompt your family member to speak up about abuse, they may be inclined to confide in you. When they do tell about abuse, take it seriously, and look into it. If they feel you do not believe them, they may be less likely to open up in the future.
Keep in touch with your loved one on a frequent basis. Isolated elderly individuals are more likely to experience abuse. If you believe a loved one has been neglected or abandoned, contact the Adult Protective Services (APS) office in their area. You can also contact the nursing home ombudsman. For emergency situation, contact the police by calling 911.
Risk factors That Can Lead to Elder Abuse
Aging comes with infirmities and dependence. These issues and the difficulty that comes with caring for an elderly person can create a scenario where abuse can occur. There are some family members that find it enriching to be a caregiver. However, caregiving demands can cause a great deal of stress. Stress can cause the caregiver to become burned out and lash out at the individuals they are taking care of.
Other risk factors for elder abuse, in addition to the caregiver’s incapacity to manage stress, include:
- The caretaker is depressed.
- Other prospective carers’ lack of assistance.
- The caregiver’s view that caring for the elderly is time-consuming and emotionally draining.
- The caretaker is abusing drugs or alcohol.
- The severity of a senior’s sickness or dementia.
- Social isolation—the old and caretaker are nearly always alone together.
- Previously, the elder’s position as an abusive parent or husband.
- A family history of domestic violence.
- The elder’s own proclivity for verbal or physical violence.
Even caretakers in institutions might suffer from depression.
Elder Abuse Can Lead to Psychological Distress
Because of the great frequency and harmful effects of psychological distress, gerontological literature has begun to discuss it as a risk factor for elder abuse (table 1).
Currently, longitudinal research have revealed a significant gap in our understanding of the temporal connection between psychological well-being and elder maltreatment. Most cross-sectional studies link the likelihood of elder abuse to two types of characteristics: victim factors and perpetrator factors.
Researchers discovered that psychological distress is related with an increased likelihood of elder abuse by analyzing the characteristics of mistreated older individuals.
Clinical depression was shown to be substantially related with elder abuse cases reported to APS in a well-characterized community-based sample. Loneliness was also linked with an increased incidence of elder abuse in another clinical-based cohort investigated by Dong et al.
Furthermore, sociodemographic factors influence the relationship between psychological distress and elder maltreatment. According to a research of the urban Chinese population, older individuals with depressive symptoms who are older and have lower education levels may be at a higher risk of elder abuse. Furthermore, gender may have varying consequences on the connection. Demented female patients have been found to be more prone to experience neglect.
In comparison to victim studies, research on caregiver traits is limited. According to studies, caregiver stress, worry, and depression frequently result in a lack of confidence in caregiving abilities and/or caring skills, potentially increasing the use of abusive behaviors to cope with these challenges. Even after adjusting for demographics, interpersonal relationships, and disease severity, care receivers were still more likely to be abused if caregivers had been diagnosed with severe depression in the preceding week.
Another study on the characteristics of care workers by Natan et al. found that emotional exhaustion and a sense of depersonalization enhance the likelihood of maltreatment. Due to the fact that carers play such an important part in elder abuse, greater emphasis should be devoted to caregiver stress and its impact on elder abuse.
Healthcare practitioners have given more attention to the health effects of elder abuse, particularly the negative psychosocial implications of elder abuse. According to population-based research, older individuals who are subjected to elder abuse have an increased risk of death. When compared to physical health outcomes, the impact of elder abuse on psychological well-being may be even more severe, and victims of elder abuse frequently need a long time to recover. However, there is a significant gap in our understanding of the long-term link between the psychological repercussions of elder abuse.
The most common psychological effects of elder abuse were observed to be depression, anxiety, and PTSD disorder. Abused older individuals were more likely than nonvictims to report a higher level of psychological distress. Dong et al. discovered that elder maltreatment reported to a social services agency was related with the lowest level of psychological well-being in a large epidemiological population.
Clinical investigations also indicate that elder maltreatment has a detrimental psychological health impact. Case-control studies on the clinical characteristics of mistreated older adults found that depression and dementia are frequent among neglected patients sent to a public geriatric clinic. Elder abuse, according to Pillemer and Moore, is also a major predictor of depression.
The severity of psychological anguish varies with the frequency and kind of abuse and violence. Luo and Waite discovered that older individuals who had experienced any type of abuse expressed more suffering than those who had not experienced elder abuse. Furthermore, older women who had experienced recurrent psychological abuse or several forms of elder abuse were more likely to be depressed or anxious.
Abuse’s influence on psychological well-being varies depending to the type of abuse. More particular, verbal abuse was found to be the greatest predictor of psychological discomfort in older individuals. Emotional violence is also connected with considerably greater levels of psychological suffering than physical abuse.
The Wrap Up
You may not want to believe that your loved one could be suffering from elder abuse. However, abuse at nursing home facilities is a common occurrence. Although there are various forms of abuse, there are signs you can look out for to protect your family member. So, talk to them to get information as to whether or not they are being abused. Abuse can come with psychological consequences. Therefore, it is important to address the issue before it becomes bigger than it has to be.
Your loved one should not have to deal with being abused or neglected at their nursing home. If you suspect they are being abused, contact Kang Law for help. Our team is experienced on the issue of elder abuse. Based in Orange County, we have helped many individuals who have suffered from elder abuse. We can offer you a free consultation to help you with your situation.