Guide To Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is a tragic reality for many people and families. Abuse of this type should be brought to light so that more people can be made aware of the problem.  Elder abuse is the physical, emotional, sexual abuse, neglect, delay of care, and fraud committed against older adults. It is a complete taking advantage of their vulnerability due to the ailments of their age.  It is unacceptable that there are people who intentionally abuse and take advantage of vulnerable senior citizens. Some of the signs of elder abuse include unexplained injuries, bruises, stolen or broken items, unpaid or misplaced bills, sexually transmitted diseases, malnourishment, dehydration, inappropriate medication doses, and bloody or dirty items. [Peck Law Group].

Awareness is a big key to the prevention of elder abuse. The abuses against older adults are illegal.  It is essential that individuals know their rights and what to do should they suspect mistreatment is happening to themselves, or others.  Elder abuse is unacceptable and those who prey on our most vulnerable should be punished. There is an outrage and injustice when people damage those that are defenseless.  The following paragraphs will include a clear explanation as to the signs and symptoms of what elder abuse looks like, the organizations that can help, and what to do should someone you know be at risk.

Elder abuse can happen from a family member, neighbor, friend, or care giver.  Financial exploitation, stealing money, jewelry, household items, or medicine is common. [Peck Law Group]. Physical abuse can include sexual assault, trapping, restraining, or penning-in an elder in damaging encasement. Elder abuse might include keeping someone sedated at all times without medical need to do so or not changing the diaper of the elder leaving them in their own waste can result in infections. Horrific stories in the care of the aging population include feeding them harmful items like dirt or other non-food items, or outright assault involving punching, kicking, and injuring the vulnerable elder is also abuse.

Active physical abuse is often easily identified by injuries and bruises.  However, not caring for someone can do as much damage.  Neglect can do as much harm as any form of active abuse.  Neglect is “the state of being uncared for” [Oxford Dictionary].  Neglect can include a lack of personal interaction or affection, lack of proper hygiene, fresh air, regular physical movement, lack of medication, or medical treatment, or lack of food and hydration.

Sexual abuse, physical abuse, and emotional abuse are all emotionally scarring whether the individual experiencing the abuse can adequately communicate what happened. Elders become easy targets by evil perpetrators.  They are victims that can rarely defend themselves. Elder abusers recognize that their victims will not be able to communicate effectively about any harm that has been done to them. Abusers target this population as they believe they can do damage without consequence.  Elders are specifically at risk because of memory lapses, speech limitations, lack of family access to be able to see firsthand or tell what is happening, and an inability to physically get away in order to protect themselves. “Two out of three victims of elder abuse are women. Five million Americans are a victim of elder abuse or neglect every year.” [Peck Law Group]. It is a tragedy that given the chance, a trusted caregiver is all too often taking advantage of a vulnerable elder.  The mental and physical limits of elders make them easy prey for those who aim to exploit. “According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 1 in 10 Americans age 60 or older have experienced some form of elder abuse. The consumer website Comparitech estimates that 5 million cases of elder financial abuse occur in the US annually, resulting in $27.4 billion in losses”[Elder Law Answers].

Because of the commonality of elder abuses, there are organizations designed to help.  There are also state by state legal statutes in place to protect victims and give recourse to families.  “The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) outlines civil elder abuse statutes by state. States vary in how they define financial exploitation and what penalties are associated with the offense.  The Department of Justice, Elder Justice Initiative (EJI) maintains a database of Civil and Criminal Financial Exploitation Statutes”[State Elder Abuse Statutes]. TRIAD is a group that helps with elder abuse. It brings together law enforcement agencies to help protect elders.

Awareness is the greatest activity we can utilize to prevent elder abuse and give support to those who have suffered.  If you see the signs of elder abuse first talk to the elder and then talk to someone outside of the facility to get help.

Elder Abuse matters because they are fragile and need to be respected and treated with care. The people who mostly abuse or neglect are people in nursing homes and the family members of the elder. Abuse of a defenseless person is against all morality, ethics, and humanity.  Many elders are as defenseless as small children. Because they cannot raise an objection when they have been victimized is why we must stand up for them, defending the underdog.

Elder abuse is personal to me because of my sweet “Great”.  Great was my great grandmother, that’s why we called her “Great”, and she was pretty great!  In her later years, she was homebound from Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease. She needed around-the-clock care.  She fortunately got excellent in-home care. The thought of someone taking advantage and harming her when she was so small, weak and frail is unacceptable.  Abuse when she was most vulnerable is absolutely intolerable for her or anyone else’s grandma.

Concern about elder abuse should matter to everyone because at some point we will all be elderly and potentially vulnerable. We as a community must defend the defenseless.  Income, nor age, nor stature should determine if someone is treated with respect and dignity. Those responsible for the care of the most vulnerable elders hold a human sacred trust.   Violating this sacred trust is an outrageous injustice that must be accounted for. There is no greater role than defending the defenseless and speaking for the voiceless.