Elder Abuse: a Subject No One Wants to Face! Part 1

November 30, 2012
elderly abuse - signs to watch for!

Learn the difference between signs of aging and signs of suffering from abuse!

Be Aware of the Unpleasant Situations That Many Seniors Face!

Recently my father had a stroke. During his convalescence, I discovered firsthand that the struggles of a caregiver are many. Unfortunately, one such struggle that caregivers sometimes face is dealing with elder abuse. This happens more often that we would like to think and in a variety of ways. One source has stated that more than half a million reports of abuse against the elderly are submitted to authorities annually, but additional millions of cases go unreported.

Many seniors are abused by their caretakers, family members, or other professional personnel. Physical abuse is the most common, but mental or emotional abuse with intimidation is nearly as widespread. Sometimes our loved ones are mistreated because caretakers fail to fulfill obligations, are ignorant, or are in denial about the needs of the elderly.

Since this subject is both quite involved and relates to a central issue of senior health, we will divide it into three articles. In this first article, we will discuss three of the most common types of elder abuse: physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, and sexual abuse. The second article will follow-up by discussing the remaining most common types of elderly abuse: abandonment, self and financial abuse, and health care fraud. In the third article, we will discuss how to report elder abuse and to whom!

Learn to recognize the warning signs and risk factors

One of the most common signs of abuse is that a caregiver will not allow or is very insistent that you NOT see your loved one, friend, or neighbor alone!

Here are three of the most common types of elder abuse, and how to recognize signs of abuse in your loved one.

1. Physical Abuse

Watch for:

  • signs of NON-ACCIDENTAL use of force resulting in physical assault or injury, pain, or impairment. Such signs may be caused by hitting, shoving, pinching, or slapping
  • signs that are less likely to be seen such as the use of restraints, confinement to a room or bed, and the inappropriate use of drugs
  • unexplained or questionable signs of injury such as bruises, abrasions, welts, scars, or burns, especially if they appear symmetrically on both sides of the body
  • inexplicable or questionable dislocations, sprains, or broken bones
  • failure to give medication properly or medication overdose (either too little or too much medication remains in the container)
  • unexplained or questionable loss of or broken dentures, eye glasses or frames, or other prosthetics

2. Emotional or Psychological Abuse

Watch for:

  • signs of intimidation, such as yelling, screaming or threats
  • signs of ridicule, humiliation tactics, or habitual blaming
  • signs of being neglected, ignored, or given the “silent treatment”
  • signs of isolation from family, friends, activities, or social functions
  • signs of being terrorized or manipulated
  • frequent arguments or tension between the elderly one and the caregiver
  • changes in personality, mannerisms, behavior characteristics, or speech

3. Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse may include:

  • physical contact without the person’s consent (including instances in which seniors are are unable to give consent), sexual activities, or intercourse
  • showing pornographic material or forcing an elderly one to watch others performing sexual activity
  • forcing an elderly one to undress while submitting to physical or verbal abuse

As our loved one, friend, or neighbor ages we may not at first take seriously or recognize the above signs. Alternatively, the signs may appear to be symptoms of frailty, Alzheimer’s, or dementia. Be aware that the symptoms of aging can overlap with signs of abuse. Caretakers who are tired, overwhelmed, or burnt-out may try to explain the symptoms away. Do not be quick to judge or dismiss the symptoms on the caretaker’s word. If you aren’t sure, look for clusters of the risk factors and warning signs mentioned above. By all means, take pictures, if possible, of suspected abuse!

  • Read Elder Abuse: A Subject No One Wants To Face! Part 2 for the remaining warning signs and risk factors.

  • Read Elder Abuse: A Subject No One Wants To Face! Part 3 for how to report abuse and to whom


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Writer, KC Morgan

Karla and her husband, Art, have been married 31 years. They have two children. She grew up in Houston, TX. She has always loved to read, cook, swim, travel and crafting of all sorts. One day she would love to say she has traversed the whole earth. She taught Montessori school for many years and has tutored many students over the years. She has been interested in the medical field for many years and has been a caregiver for several friends and family members over the past 10 years. Her love of reading has motivated her to try a new challenge, writing.

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