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Families and Caregivers: How to Spot Senior Abuse

Feb 28, 2018 by Comfort Keepers of Riverside and Corona

A recent report came out about nursing homes across the country sedating their dementia residents with medication to make them easier to deal with.

If this upsets you, you’re not alone. It technically classifies as abuse, yet these facilities are able to get away with such actions because the government so poorly regulates them.

This raises the question: in what other ways can seniors be abused? 

Types of Senior Abuse

It’s important to know that generally, seniors experience more than one form of abuse at a time. It is therefore vital to know what these forms of abuse are:

  • Neglect. Though the person/facility isn’t actually doing anything to your senior, their lack of efforts is what's wrong. Your senior isn’t receiving care just so they can pay other people to ignore them. If their needs aren’t being met, especially medical, it could be fatal.
  • Abandonment. This is a caregiver completely abandoning a senior in need. This can be very dangerous, especially for seniors with mobility issues, or those with dementia who have wandering tendencies.
  • Physical abuse. This form of abuse can range from minimal such as hitting on them on the hand, to extremely brutal.
  • Emotional abuse. Many people do not think about the psychological effects of abuse in seniors, but it’s just as applicable to them as everyone else. Talking down to a senior, making them feel worthless or unwanted, making them cry or making them angry intentionally – these are all forms of emotional abuse.
  • Sexual abuse. This unfortunately happens more often than we think. It can happen to both men and women.
  • Financial abuse/exploitation. A common form of abuse is not to the person themself, but to their finances for someone else’s benefit. This and other theft are both classified as senior abuse, because they cannot do anything to protect themselves from it or prevent it, as they are in a vulnerable state.

Signs of Senior Abuse

Symptoms in seniors can be physical and mental. Senior bodies are frailer, so they’re more likely to show obvious signs of physical abuse or neglect. For example, common signs are:

  • Poor hygiene
  • Bruises
  • Cuts
  • Burns
  • Bedsores
  • Unexplained weight loss

Signs of emotional abuse can range from depression, to withdrawing from loved ones, to physically witnessing a caregiver verbally yelling at your senior. Any changes in your senior’s personality or mannerisms in general should be cause for concern.

Signs of theft and financial abuse include drastic changes in your loved one’s finances, or gradual decreases in funds over time. Things from their home may begin to disappear over time, as well.

What Can You Do?

For starters, if your senior, yourself, or anyone else is in immediate harm, call 911. You can also call if you’re unsure of what to do and don’t feel safe handling the situation yourself.

If your senior’s nursing home, assisted living facility, or wherever else they may be institutionalized is committing the abuse, you may talk to someone higher up if you feel comfortable doing that, or if you suspect they are involved, call 911.

Whenever you suspect elder abuse but are not in immediate harm’s way, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline a 1-800-799-7233. Take your suspicions seriously; it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry, especially for your senior’s sake.

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