Elder Abuse Awareness

June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month, and we feel it is important for our readers to understand the magnitude and severity of Elder Abuse in America.

According to the National Council on Aging, 1 in 10 Americans aged 60 and older have experienced elder abuse of some form. It is estimated that as many as 5 million older adults are abused every year in the United States alone. Shockingly, the abuser is often a family member, with 60% of abuse and neglect incidence involving a family member. However, abuse can also occur at the hands of someone else, such as a caregiver, nursing home or assisted living staff, friends, intruders, among many others. To help raise awareness and hopefully reduce elder abuse, we will present the seven types of elder abuse and the five primary warning signs someone is being abused.

Types of Elder Abuse

  1. Physical abuse – inflicting injury or physical pain
  2. Sexual abuse – any sexual activity with an older adult that is physically forced, threatened, unwilling to consent, or unable to understand
  3. Emotional abuse – harassment, intimidation, threats, or verbal assaults
  4. Confinement – restraining or isolating an older adult, other than for medical reasons
  5. Passive neglect – a caregiver’s failure to provide food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or other life necessities
  6. Willful deprivation – deny medical care, medication, food, shelter, or physical assistance, and exposing the adult to the risk of physical, emotional, or mental harm – except when the older, competent adult has willingly expressed a desire to go without such care
  7. Financial exploitation – misuse or withholding of an older adult’s resources by another

Warning Signs of Elder Abuse

  1. Physical abuse, neglect or mistreatment – signs are bruises, burns, abrasions, pressure marks, and broken bones
  2. Emotional abuse – frequent arguments between the caregiver and older adult, strained or tense relationships, unusual depression, unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, or a sudden change is alertness
  3. Financial abuse – a sudden change in financial conditions
  4. Neglect – poor hygiene, unusual weight loss, unattended medical needs, bedsores
  5. Verbal or emotional abuse – threats, belittling, or other uses of power and control by individuals

How to report elder abuse

If there is an immediate, life-threatening situation or danger, call 911. If you are being abused or suspect someone is being mistreated, contact the police, a local Adult Protective Services office, or a Long-Term Care Ombudsman (phone number found around long-term care facility). It is always better to be safe than sorry, if you suspect any type of mistreatment, please call one of the above contacts before the situation might get worse.

Elder Abuse and Incontinence

Incontinence can result in abuse, or it can be the outcome of abuse. There have been reports of older adults, primarily living in nursing facilities (nursing home or assisted living), who have developed incontinence due to staffs’ unavailability to assist with toileting, generally coupled with immobility. It is also possible for older adults to be neglected and left in a soiled product for extended periods of time, resulting in skin breakdown or incontinence-associated dermatitis.

If you notice that your family member or friend has unusually become incontinent, or has developed skin irritation or breakdown, it is important to contact Adult Protective Services or a Long-Term Care Ombudsman. Signs of skin irritation and skin breakdown are pain or discomfort when sitting, fidgeting or pulling on bottom or pants/underwear, and visible signs (redness, swelling, crusting, scaling, etc.). See the 6 Signs of Poor Incontinence Care in Nursing Homes.

Help reduce elder abuse by speaking up if you suspect mistreatment and spreading the word about elder abuse to help raise awareness!