How to Prevent Elder Abuse

Three Methods:Taking Care of Your EldersRecognizing the Signs of Elder AbuseUnderstanding Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can happen to anyone. 4% to 6% of elderly people will be the victim of elder abuse, and the perpetrator of this abuse can be anyone associated with the person.[1] If you are worried about your elderly loved one, there are ways to help prevent elder abuse.

Method 1
Taking Care of Your Elders

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    Visit your elderly loved ones often. Visiting your elderly loved ones will keep them from being lonely and strengthen your relationship. Plus, the more often you visit an elderly loved one, the more aware of his situation you will be. This will help you keep track of his health, financial situation, and well being.
    • Be sure to look for risk factors of elder abuse, which are outlined later in the article.[2]
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    Provide breaks for caregivers. Whether the main caregiver for your elderly loved one is a family member or hired help, she may need a break from time to time. It can be hard to be the one solely responsible for an elderly person, and these breaks will help give the caregiver time to regroup and destress.
    • This will help lower the chances that the caregiver will, intentionally or unintentionally, commit elderly abuse.[3]
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    Look for physical changes. When you visit your elderly loved one, pay attention to physical changes. Look for bruising, scrapes, and other physical injuries. Also pay attention to his hygiene, the state of his clothing, and general physical well being.
    • If you notice something off, ask him what is going on to see if there is an explanation for the change or injury.[4]
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    Pay attention to emotional changes. When you interact with your loved one, notice any changes in his emotional state. Note if he is more irritable, confused, unhappy, removed, anxious, or depressed. If you see changes, ask him if there is anything going on that you can help with or that may explain his change of temperament.[5]
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    Have money automatically deposited into a bank account. If you are worried about your elderly loved one's finances, especially if you cannot be around him as often as you like, think about streamlining his finances. Instead of having checks sent to him in the mail, have all of his money deposited into his bank account each month.
    • Also look into having his bills, such as utilities, house payments, or other recurring bills, taking out of his account every month instead of needing to pay them month to month. This avoid needing to have others in charge of paying his bills and will keep him covered.[6]
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    Research caregivers and living facilities. If you hire an outside caregiver to take care of your loved one, so plenty of research into their company and history before you hire anyone. This will ensure that you hire the best person possible for your loved one. Do the same if you are looking into an assisted living arrangement or retirement home.
    • If you aren't sure, ask for recommendations from your doctor.[7]
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    Encourage your loved ones to stay social. In order to keep your loved one happy and healthy, encourage him to be active. Get him involved with a senior group, a church group, or other social grouping that will get him out of the house.
    • The happier your loved one is, the less likely he will be to put up with or be a victim of elder abuse.[8]
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    Help them keep their personal information safe. If you are worried about your loved one's personal and financial information, encourage him to take measures to keep it safe. Put financial documents in safe places and have him discuss any changes he wants to make with you.
    • Have him draw up living wills, power of attorney documents, and other legal documents that will allow you or other family members to take over his affairs if anything should happen.[9]

Method 2
Recognizing the Signs of Elder Abuse

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    Recognize physical abuse. Elder physical abuse is when physical force or violence is inflicted on elders that results in pain, bodily injury, or physical impairment. A sub division of physical abuse is domestic abuse, which is when a spouse is responsible for physical abuse. Signs of physical abuse include:
    • Bruises and injuries
    • Broken bones
    • Dislocations, sprains, or fractures
    • Scrapes on any part of the body
    • Burns from cigarettes, hot water, or appliances
    • Unexplained or suspicious injuries
    • A change in behavior towards others
    • Differing explanations of how injuries occured[10]
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    Look for sexual assault. Since elders can be weaker than others, they may be the target of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is when any elderly person is subjected to unwanted sexual contact of any kind, from groping to intercourse, especially when he or she does not have the mental capacity to consent. Although the majority of sexually abused elders are women, it can happen to men as well.
    • Signs include physical pain, tenderness, or bleeding from the genital or anal region, bruises on the inner thighs or genitalia, clothing that is torn, bloody, or stained, and difficulty walking or sitting when there was no previous issue.[11]
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    Watch for psychological abuse. The elderly may be subjected to psychological abuse. This type of abuse is the intentional and willful infliction of mental or emotional duress or anguish through humiliation, threats, or other verbal means. Common indicators of psychological abuse include:
    • Depression
    • Uncharacteristic confusion
    • Problems sleeping
    • Being emotionally withdrawn, upset, irritable, or non responsive
    • Signs that can be attributed to dementia, such as rocking or biting
    • Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
    • Unexplained stress symptoms, such as high blood pressure[12]
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    Recognize financial abuse. Financial elder abuse covers any activity that takes the money or resources from an elder under questionable circumstances. This includes taking money or property, forging a signature to gain resources, using property or possessions without permission, taking money for services not given, and scams or cons of any nature. Signs include:
    • Unpaid bills
    • Withdrawals from accounts that can't be explained, which may be frequent
    • New legal documents
    • Missing property
    • Suspicious signatures on legal or bank documents
    • Implausible explanations of elderly finances by the caregiver or family[13][14]
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    Watch for neglect. Neglect is when caregivers neglect to fulfill their responsibilities to provide adequate care. This can be active neglect, which is when they purposefully withhold care from the elderly person and may be motivated by financial gain or personal conflicts. It can also be passive neglect, which is when the caregiver does not have adequate knowledge, resources, ability, health, or maturity to be the proper caregiver anymore. Signs of this include:
    • Lack of necessities such as food, water, and heat
    • Inadequate living arrangements, such as poor ventilation, lack of utilities, unsafe wiring, and improper ventilation
    • Infestations of animals or insects
    • Medical mismanagement, including out of date, empty, or unmarked prescriptions
    • Presence of bedsores, skin rashes, or other preventable skin ailments
    • Improper hygiene
    • Dehydration
    • Absence of necessary aids, such as glasses, walkers, dentures, hearing aids, or braces
    • Untreated medical conditions, such as infections, soiled bandages, and unattended sprains or fractures[15]

Method 3
Understanding Elder Abuse

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    Recognize the risk factors. There are certain factors that make an elderly person more at risk for elder abuse. These include being over 80 years old, having advanced illness or dementia, being in social isolation, or a history of domestic abuse or physical and verbal aggression.[16][17][18]
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    Discover who can commit elder abuse. Anyone who comes into contact with the elderly can instigate abuse, including sons, daughters, acquaintances, children, grandchildren, or in home nurses. This means that anyone who takes on a caregiver role as well as anyone who has continued access to your elderly loved one.[19]
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    Consider common locations of elder abuse. Elder abuse can take place in any setting. This means you should be aware of the current living situation of your elderly loved ones whether they live in their own home, in a nursing home, in an assisted living facility, or with another loved one.
    • Always be vigilant of your loved one's surroundings to ensure you notice any changes that might suggest elder abuse.[20]
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    Report elder abuse. If you suspect someone you love is being abused, you should report it. Take down as much information as you can about the situation as well as the name, address, and contact information for the elder being abused. Also provide contact information of their loved ones if possible, as much of the elder's health that you know, and your own contact information.
    • There are online databases where you can find someone to contact about elder abuse in your area, which should be done by state or country.[21]

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Aged Care | Abuse