Elder Abuse Prevention

Can Elder Abuse Be Prevented?

elder abuseThe elderly are particularly vulnerable to being exploited or abused in several ways. It is a problem that stems from biological, psychological, societal and financial issues related to the abused and the abuser.

According to the American Psychological Association, about 2 million seniors are victims of financial, psychological, and physical abuse, as well as other forms of abuse (1).

Also, for every report of elderly abuse, five others go unreported. This means that estimates of elder abuse are likely even higher the 2 million figure.

According to the National Committee For The Prevention Of Elder Abuse, about 5 percent of the older population has suffered from some kind of abuse. As the population of seniors in the U.S. continues to expand, so will the issues related to elder abuse in our country.

In order to prevent the victimization of our elders in society, there are many things you can do. By informing yourself on the topic of elder abuse and actively raising awareness for this issue, this will help curb neglect or abuse occurring to elders. It will also force nursing home staff and management to become more accountable for the conditions and caretakers they provide, which will lower rates of abuse.

Ways To Reduce Elder Abuse

There are various potential causes that lead to elder abuse, such as understaffing of facilities or personal problems among caretakers. However, by understanding the ways to reduce rates of elder abuse overall, this will help prevent elder abuse from happening.

Steps you can take to prevent abuse of the elderly include the following:

  • Avoid isolating elders. This can cause depression, sadness and loneliness that will increase the chances of neglect or abuse.
  • Stay in touch with your elders. Family members can help care for the elderly person and be on the lookout for changes that may suggest abuse.
  • Keep elders active. By staying active in old age, this can prolong an elder’s life and decrease the chances that they will be vulnerable to elder abuse.
  • Encourage elders to attend religious services and community activities. This can help them stay in touch with things that have been important to them throughout their life.
  • Don’t allow elders to live with someone who is known to be abusive or violent. Once a person has a history of violence, they are likely to repeat that behavior again, especially when someone is vulnerable. 
  • Be wary of caregivers or friends needing financial help, or those who have issues with illicit drugs. These are people who may manipulate an elder and steal or mismanage finances.
  • Elders should be aware of their own financial affairs. Elders may require the help of a trusted relative or friend to manage their money, but ultimately they should be the sole one in control of finances.
  • Don’t allow a caretaker or family member to impulsively alter an elder’s will, or add their names to financial accounts or land titles. These are people who put an elder at risk for financial exploitation.
  • Inform elders to be wary of solicitations from the telephone, internet or mail. These are likely to be scams designed to steal an elderly person’s money.

If you or someone you love is concerned that they have become a victim of any type of elder abuse, including financial abuse, discuss these concerns with a trusted family member, attorney, bank manager, clergy or close friend.

There are also services provided by Adult Protective Services that can help determine if elder abuse is occurring. Find an Eldercare Provider today by calling 1-800-677-1116, where you will be connected with local services.

How can I protect the senior in my life from becoming a victim of abuse?

By identifying the risk factors of abuse for an elderly loved one in your life, you will stand a higher chance of preventing any form of abuse — before it even occurs.

There are various steps you can take to keep your loved one safe. These include the following:

  • If you are a caregiver yourself, look for trusted people who can provide additional care when you need a break to avoid becoming overly stressed or overwhelmed by your caregiving duties.
  • Try not to become overburdened. If you are overburdened when caring for an ailing relative, you are more likely to become a perpetrator of elder abuse yourself.
  • If your loved one is in a nursing facility, stay involved in the process. Observe for any signs of elder abuse or evidence that they are receiving adequate care from the staff. 
  • Be aware of any changes in your loved one’s appearance or mood, as this can indicate they are suffering from abuse.
  • Provide your loved one with tips on how they can avoid becoming the victim of solicitors.
  • Consider therapy or a support group if you are feeling burdened by caring for your loved one.
  • Encourage your elderly loved one to be weary when partaking in financial decisions. Tell them to seek the advice of a lawyer, a trusted family member or friend before signing any important documents. 

If you suspect that your loved one is a victim of elder abuse, talk to them directly or to the supervisor or medical director at the nursing home facility in which they reside. By encouraging them to open up to you about any concerns they may have about the care they are receiving, you will be prepared to assist them in getting out of the shroud of abuse.

 

References:

  1. The Essentials of Preventing Elder Abuse. https://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/mmi/publications/essentials/mmi-preventing-elder-abuse-essentials.pdf.
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Dr. Christine Traxler

Christine Traxler, MD is a retired family practice physician, graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in 1986, and freelance writer, having worked with patients in rural Minnesota for two decades. She has written several books on medical topics and currently resides in Minneapolis, MN, where she works as a freelance writer on medical topics.

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