Abuse of the elderly is often under recognized and unreported
By Linda Ziac
The Caregiver Resource Center
January 30, 2018
DID YOU KNOW?
- 90% of elder abuse and neglect is perpetrated by someone well known to the victim, usually family members, and more specifically grown children or spouses.
- Beyond the physical and mental difficulties that come with aging, becoming older and more frail makes an elder more vulnerable.
- Unfortunately, there are many people that can take advantage of those weaknesses, either intentionally or unintentionally.
- “Elder Abuse is any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable older person.
Source: General definition used by the National Center on Elder Abuse
While most people think of elder abuse as only being physical, but there are actually seven (7) types of abuse.
Elder abuse includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, neglect, and abandonment.
Perpetrators of elder abuse may include children, other family members, and spouses - as well as staff at nursing homes, assisted living, and other facilities.
- Physical abuse means inflicting physical pain or injury upon an older adult.
- Sexual abuse means touching, fondling, intercourse, or any other sexual activity with an older adult, when the older adult is unable to understand, unwilling to consent, threatened, or physically forced.
- Emotional abuse means verbal assaults, threats of abuse, harassment, or intimidation.
- Confinement means restraining or isolating an older adult, other than for medical reasons.
- Passive neglect is a caregiver’s failure to provide an older adult with life’s necessities, including, but not limited to, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.
- Willful deprivation means denying an older adult medication, medical care, shelter, food, a therapeutic device, or other physical assistance, and exposing that person to the risk of physical, mental, or emotional harm—except when the older, competent adult has expressed a desire to go without such care.
- Financial exploitation means the misuse or withholding of an older adult’s resources by another.
Source: The National Council on Aging
ELDER ABUSE FALLS INTO ONE OF THREE CATETGORIES
1. Domestic elder abuse
2. Institutional elder abuse
3. Self-neglect or self-abuse
This means that the abuse can happen within the home, by a caregiver or family member, at or within an institution or care facility, or by the elder him / herself.
WHO ARE THE ABUSERS & WHY DOES IT OCCUR?
90%of elder abuse and neglect is perpetrated by someone well known to the victim, usually family members, specifically grown children or spouses.
Because of this, it is primarily considered a type of domestic violence.
Primary reasons that abuse happens include:
- Caregiver Stress
- Impairment of Dependent Elder
- Cycle of Violence
- Personal Problems of Abusers
There are many resources available to report elder abuse, and to receive help.
I will provide a list of area numbers where you can call if you or someone you know may be a victim of abuse.
SOME POTENTIAL INDICATORS OF ABUSE & NEGLECT
The following indicators, by themselves, do not necessarily signify abuse or neglect.
These may however be helpful, in helping you assess potential abuse.
To follow are some possible indicators of physical abuse:
- Cuts, lacerations, puncture wounds
- Bruises, welts, discoloration
- An elder’s report of being hit, slapped, kicked or mistreated
- Broken eyeglasses/frames, physical signs of punishment or restraint
- Burns or burn marks
EMOTIONAL / PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE
To follow are some possible indicators of emotional / psychological abuse:
- Implausible stories
- Hesitation to talk openly
To follow are some possible indicators of financial abuse:
- Unusual or inappropriate activity in bank accounts
- Signatures on checks, etc., that do not resemble the senior’s signature, or signed when the elder cannot write
- Power of attorney given, or recent changes in or creation of a will, when the person is incapable of making such decisions
- Unusual concern by a caregiver that an excessive amount of money is being expended on the care of the older person
- Numerous unpaid bills, overdue rent, when someone is supposed to be paying the bills for a dependent elder
- Placement in a nursing home or residential care facility which is not commensurate with the size of the estate
- Missing personal belongings such as art, silverware or jewelry
To follow are some possible indicators of caregiver neglect:
- Dirt, fecal/urine smell, or other health and safety hazards in an elder’s living environment
- Rashes, sores, lice
- Elder is inadequately clothed
- Malnourishment or dehydration
- Untreated medical condition
To follow are some possible indicators of caregiver abuse:
- The elder may not be given the opportunity to speak for him or herself, or see others, without the presence of the caregiver (suspected abuser)
- Attitudes of indifference or anger toward the dependent person
- Blaming the elder for uncontrollable acts, such as confusion or incontinence
- Aggressive behavior (threats, insults, harassment) by caregiver toward the elder
- Problems with alcohol or drugs
- Inappropriate display of affection by the caregiver
- Social isolation of family, or isolation or restriction of activity of the older adult within the family unit by the caregiver
- Conflicting accounts of incidents by family, supporters or the elder
- Unwillingness or reluctance by the care- giver to comply with service providers in care planning
- Inappropriate or unwarranted defensive- ness by caregiver
To follow are some possible indicators of self-neglect:
- Inability to manage personal finances, e.g., hoarding, squandering, giving money away or failure to pay bills
- Inability to manage activities of daily living, including personal care, shopping, meal preparation, housework, etc.
- Suicidal acts, wanderings, refusing medical attention, isolation, substance abuse
- Hazardous or unsafe living conditions (no plumbing, no heat, no running water, animal infested living quarters, etc.)
- Rashes, sores, fecal/urine smell, inadequate clothing, malnourishment, dehydration, etc.
- Changes in intellectual functioning, e.g., confusion, inappropriate or no response, disorientation to time and place, memory failure, incoherence, etc.
- Missing medical appointments
Source: Parlay International
HELP IS JUST A PHONE CALL AWAY!
If you or someone you know may be a victim of abuse, there is help available.
Elder Abuse Reporting (CT)
Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline (CT)
Crisis Helpline (CT Info-line)
800-203-1234 or 211
Domestic Violence Helpline (CT)
Domestic Violence Statewide Hotline (CT)
Domestic Violence Hotline – (Greenwich, CT)
Family Abuse Crisis Center (Fairfield County, CT)
Mental Health/Suicide Crisis Hotline (CT)
203-358-8500 24 hrs/7 days or call 911
Rape Crisis Hotline (CT)
888-999-5545 24 hrs./7 days a week
Suicide Crisis Hotline (Fairfield County, CT)
Elder Abuse Reporting (NY)
800-342-3009 press option 6
Abused Spouse Assistance Services (NY)
914 -345-5900 ext 240
Nursing Home Abuse/Long Term Care Nursing Home Complaints:
Adult Care Home Complaints
Child Abuse Hotline (NY State)
Domestic Abuse – My Sister’s Place (NY)
Family Abuse Services (Westchester NY)
Families Together in NYS (mental health issues)
Suicide/Crisis Hotline (NY)
Elder Info Line National Hotline
Domestic Violence Hotline (National)
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Hotline
Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network
SAFE (Self-Abuse Finally Ends)
Child Help Abuse Hotline (National)
Suicide Hotline (National - Veterans)
800-273-8255 Press 1
Suicide Hotline (National - Spanish)
800-273-8255 Press 2
Photo from Microsoft
The information in this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient provider relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.
Please consult your health care provider for an appointment, before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition.
Linda Ziac is the owner and founder of The Caregiver Resource Center. The Caregiver Resource Center is a division of Employee Assistance Professionals, Inc. which Linda founded in October 1990. The Caregiver Resource Center provides a spectrum of concierge case management and advocacy services for seniors, people with special needs and families.
Linda’s professional career spans more than 40 years in the health and mental health field as a CT Licensed Professional Counselor, CT Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor, Board Certified Employee Assistance Professional, Board Certified Case Manager, and Board Certified Dementia Practitioner. In addition, Ms. Ziac has 15 years of experience coordinating care for her own parents.
Linda assists seniors, people with special needs and their families; in planning for and implementing ways to allow for the greatest degree of health, safety, independence, and quality of life. Linda meets with individuals and family members to assess their needs, and develop a Care Team, while working with members of the Team to formulate a comprehensive Care Plan (a road map).
Once a plan is in place, Linda is available to serve as the point person to monitor and coordinate services, and revise the plan as needed. This role is similar to the conductor of an orchestra; ensuring that there is good communication, teamwork, and that everyone remains focused on the desired goal.