Evaluating The Impact of Elder Abuse

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), one in 10 elders have been abused. Long swept under the rug, elder abuse is now a widely recognized vice of modern society.

Getting older robs you of your power in the world. That’s why society tries to organize itself to protect the elderly.

Contemporary interpersonal dynamics have put elders more at risk than ever. Lots of different people abuse the elderly, and elder abuse takes many forms.

If you believe that you or someone you love has been subjected to elder abuse, there are steps you can take to stop the abuse and seek justice. Learn more about elder abuse to find out what to do when an elder is being or has been abused.

Elder abuse is tragically common

Elder abuse is everywhere. Even behaviors that weren’t previously recognized as abuse may be abusive toward elders depending on the circumstances.

The NCOA believes that as many as five million American elders are abused every year. Even so, a 2003 report published by the National Institutes of Health suggests that only one in every 14 cases of elder abuse are reported.

Out of all reported cases of elder abuse, only a tiny fraction are satisfyingly resolved. New statistics are needed, but it’s possible that elder abuse has become even more prevalent and harmful over the last two decades.

Elder abuse comes in many forms

You don’t have to hit or kick an older person to commit elder abuse. Abusing an elderly person can take many different forms, and learning to identify the various types of elder abuse is the first step in stopping this type of harm to elders.

The NCOA has separated elder abuse into seven distinct categories:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Confinement
  • Passive neglect
  • Willful deprivation
  • Financial exploitation

At the beginning of life as well as at its end, we are tragically susceptible to physical violence. As with children, elders are likewise targeted for sexual abuse, and threats, harassment, or intimidation can all be forms of emotional elder abuse.

Confining any innocent person, especially an elder, is a form of abuse, and elders can be abused if their caregivers fail to supply them with the basic necessities of life. In some cases, this deprivation is passive while in others it is willful.

Elders can also be exploited financially. Caregivers, children, spouses, and other trusted individuals can misuse or withhold an elderly person’s rightful financial resources.

Examples of physical elder abuse

  • Physically hitting, kicking, pushing, grabbing, or otherwise making direct contact with an elder
  • Physically restraining an elder
  • Unnecessary roughness when providing care

Examples of financial elder abuse

  • Stealing money by using an elder’s credit card, forging an elder’s signature, or committing identity theft
  • Exploitative acquisition of an elder’s assets such as real estate deeds or vehicle titles
  • Exploitation of a position of power to coerce an elder to alter their existing financial arrangements for the purpose of personal gain

Examples of sexual elder abuse

  • Sexual assault involving physical touching and sexual activities
  • Unwelcome sexual advances that are either verbal or physical
  • Sexual activity with an elder who has been designated as incapable of granting informed consent

Examples of emotional elder abuse

  • Yelling at, cursing at, insulting, or otherwise verbally abusing an elderly person
  • Threatening to remove an elderly person’s access to basic necessities and services
  • Isolating an elderly person from their friends or family members
    Preventing an elderly person from choosing their own daily activities

Examples of other types of elder abuse

  • Confining an elderly person in a home or preventing them from contacting the outside world
  • Passively neglecting to provide a dependent elderly person with basic necessities and services
  • Purposely denying elder medications, medical procedures, therapeutic devices, shelter, food, or other necessities of life

Elder abuse is done for many reasons by many perpetrators

For most of us, the image of an underpaid nursing home worker beating a defenseless elderly person might be the first thing that pops into our minds when we think about “elder abuse.” As we’ve learned, however, elder abuse doesn’t need to be physical, and the people who commit elder abuse are often the last ones we’d expect.

According to the NCOA, a little more than half of elder abusers are family members. The remainder might be caregivers, medical staff, or friends.

Families should closely monitor the way they behave around their elderly members to ensure that relationships do not accidentally become emotionally or financially abusive. It’s just as important for family members of elderly people, however, to be on the lookout for outside threats.

The best deterrent to elder abuse is strong, healthy family relationships. If abusers slip through the cracks, legal remedies can halt the abuse and deliver justice.

Abusers prey on the least powerful

The more dependent an elderly person is on others, the more exposed to potential abuse they become. Some of the factors that can make an elder more prone to abuse include:

  • Declining physical health
  • Mental health conditions
  • Co-housing or shared living
  • Isolation from friends and family

Elders who are in poor health are physically incapable of preventing abuse. Equally at risk are mentally hindered elders who suffer from conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Unusual living situations expose elders to abuse. Any time that an elder enters a new living situation, the potential for abuse appears. There seems to be a special correlation between abuse and elder co-housing or shared living arrangements.

Elder abuse can occur anywhere

Elder abuse is commonly associated with nursing homes, but elders can be abused wherever they live. The home can be a dangerous place for elders with abusers in their families, and nursing homes can be dangerous due to the overwhelming prevalence of strangers.

Elder abuse is always more likely to occur if a person in a position of power over an elder is:

  • Not prepared for the responsibilities involved in taking care of an elderly person
  • Financially dependent on the elder
  • Has issues with substance abuse or mental health
  • Lacks emotional, social, or logistical support

Elder abuse can be identified by warning signs

You can’t always be there to catch elder abuse when it happens. In the course of interacting with an elderly person, however, you can sniff out abuse by watching for certain telltale warning signs.

First, look for indications that an elderly person isn’t being properly cared for. Disheveled hair, poor hygiene, unexplained weight loss, or visible injuries can all be signs that abuse is taking place.

Keep an eye out for:

  • Specific caregivers who are particularly argumentative with elders
  • Sudden changes in an elder’s mood or habits
  • Unexplained changes in an elder’s financial situation

It’s possible to prevent elder abuse

Some cases of elder abuse are so insidious that even the most tightly knit family groups don’t notice them for years. With a few proactive steps, however, you can help prevent elder abuse before it happens or stop existing instances of elder abuse.

First, educate yourself and everyone you know about elder abuse. Stay in close contact with elderly loved ones, and let them know you’re concerned about the potential they might be abused.

Promote social connections between elderly people and their friends and family. Ensure that elders are hip to the latest SMS, email, and robo-call scams. Promote outgoing behavior, but be cautious of new friends taking up suspicious amounts of an elder’s time.

Reporting elder abuse is the first step

If you’re concerned that elder abuse has already happened, the first thing you need to do is report the abuse to the authorities. Law enforcement will be able to stop presently occurring instances of physical abuse, and you can start building a legal case for contesting other types of abuse.

In many cases, however, it’s already too late to stop elder abuse. Or, actions you’ve already taken haven’t changed the situation. To cover all of your bases, you should seek legal consultation immediately.

You can take legal action to prevent elder abuse and seek justice

An effective elder abuse lawyer can secure enduring safety for an elder beset by abuse. They can also ensure financial remuneration for elders or family members who have been subjected to elder abuse.

At Berberian Ain, we’re all too acquainted with how deeply elder abuse can devastate families. We’re here to prevent abuse from happening, stop abuse in its tracks, or secure justice for abuse that has already occurred.

Empower yourself to fight back against elder abuse by contacting us for a free consultation today at (818) 808-0048.