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Elder abuse or the intentional physical or psychological harm or neglect of seniors is surprisingly common. Today we will talk about the seven types of elder abuse, the many different forms it can take and what steps you can take if you feel that someone you know is being mistreated.

Welcome to the Seniors Circle, where we hope to inspire and help others by providing valuable, relevant information related to caring for an elderly loved one. Hi, my name is Dawn Neely and I’ll be your host. Thank you for joining us.

One in 10 older adults experiences elder abuse or mistreatment of some sort according to the National Elder Mistreatment Study conducted by the National Institute of Justice.

We have a very quickly aging population, which requires that we as a society intensify the resources, tools, education for preventing and addressing elder mistreatment. One of the responsibilities of caregivers and family members is being educated about risk factors, signs, and symptoms of senior abuse.

As we discuss the types of elder abuse and the many different forms it can take, we will also discuss how to report elder abuse if someone you love could be in danger. There’s a National Center on Elder Abuse, the NCEA and it recognizes seven main types of senior abuse. Some, such as neglect or emotional abuse maybe more difficult to notice or prove than physical abuse.

Physical abuse is the use of physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment according to the NCEA. this includes hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, and other violent acts. There are more overlooked types of physical abuse that include forced restraints, starvation, or force feeding and inappropriate administration of drugs. There are some warning signs that could suggest that a report of abuse be made such as:

  • Bruising on the face or the core of the body. This is because most accidental elderly bruising happens on limbs and extremities.
  • Broken bones, sprains or serious injuries, especially without a reported fall.
  • Signs of being restrained like a strap or a rope mark.
  • Sudden changes in behavior.

There are also situations when a direct report of physical abuse is received from the elderly victim.

Sexual abuse can happen, which includes any type of nonconsensual sexual action toward a senior. This means anything from rape to inappropriate touching, forced nudity or photography. Seniors with significant cognitive impairment can’t give sexual consent.

Emotional abuse is the infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or none verbal acts. There could be insults, threats, verbal abuse and harassment, forced social isolation and gaslighting, which is manipulating someone into questioning their sanity and judgment. These are all forms of emotional abuse.

Financial or material exploitation is when an abuser steals or mismanages the senior’s money or possessions. If checks are being cashed without permission, signatures are being forged, or there’s gross misuse of guardianship or power of attorney, this is abuse.

Neglect is another type of abuse. It’s the refusal to provide a dependent senior with necessities like food, water, appropriate shelter, hygiene and medicine. Neglect can also be financial if the family member responsible for a senior’s finances refuses to pay for appropriate care.

Abandonment is a more extreme version of neglect in which a caregiver who’s assumed responsibility for a senior desserts them. Usually seniors are abandoned in their own homes or after a hospital stay, but they can also be left in public locations or with law enforcement. An abandoned senior would be referred to Adult Protective Services, or the APS if contact with family members can’t be made.

Self-neglect is when a senior engages in behaviors that are harmful to their health or safety, like refusing to eat, drink, take their medication or perform regular hygiene. This is most common in seniors with mental illness or cognitive decline.

So who is it that’s typically being abused?

The majority of senior abuse victims are female. Whereas the majority of abusers are male. This according to the American Psychological Association. Adult children are the most common perpetrators of elder abuse followed by spouses and other family members. There’s also concern of abuse of elderly in hospitals, long-term care homes and nursing homes even with strict regulations. Abuse by family members often goes unreported since seniors don’t want to get their adult children or relatives in trouble. If you suspect a sibling or family member is abusing an elderly loved one, bring up the topic calmly with your senior. Don’t start by making a direct accusation because they’ll be more likely to share their experiences if they don’t feel like they’re condemning someone that they care about.

So what are some of the signs that our elder is being abused?

Seniors are prone to falls and accidents, as well as changing behaviors due to medication or cognitive decline. These signs don’t necessarily indicate elder abuse, but they certainly are red flags that should be carefully recorded.

  • Bruises, cuts, burns and other physical signs of trauma.
  • Confusion, depression, or if they suddenly become socially withdrawn.
  • Their finances suddenly change for the worse.
  • Bedsores, poor hygiene and weight loss.
  • Unexpected negative reaction to physical contact.
  • Unexplained venereal diseases, or injury to private areas.
  • Self-doubt or unwillingness to speak.

If you notice any of these signs, take detailed notes or photographs of injured areas. Record any behaviors you witness or testimonies from the senior. These records can be vital in reporting elder abuse and prosecuting an abuser to keep your loved ones safe.

If you believe a senior is in immediate danger, dial 911. Explain the situation the best that you can including detailed descriptions of the senior and their caregiver.

At the end of this video, we’ve included several important numbers that you can consider contacting if you believe someone is being mistreated. Remember, we’re all in this together and we need to be looking out for one another. If you have any questions or would like some assistance in determining to whom you should report abuse of an elder, please do not hesitate to contact us at 248-969-4000.

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