Forms Of Elder Abuse

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Elder abuse is a serious problem that exists all over the country. Unfortunately, not as many people know as much about it as should. Millions of people are the victims of elder abuse each year in the United States. As the population of older adults grows, so too does the risk for elder abuse. For this to end, recognition and prosecution need to be at the forefront.

Elder abuse can affect any elderly adult, anywhere. Many people may immediately think of nursing homes as the primary place where elder abuse occurs. However, the majority of elder abuse cases actually occur at home, where older adults live with their paid nurses, spouses, children, siblings, or other relatives. And while there are cases of extreme, severe abuse, many cases of elder abuse are subtle and hard to discern, making them go relatively unnoticed.

There are a number of forms of elder abuse, including physical abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, and neglect. Characteristics of these forms of abuse are discussed in brief below.

Physical – This form of abuse relates to the infliction of, or threat to inflict, physical harm, pain, or injury on an elderly person. Examples of this abuse include hitting, slapping, pushing, grabbing, or other sorts of physical acts. Signs of this abuse include bruising, lacerations, sores, or broken bones. Victims of this sort of abuse may have a dismissive attitude or be unable to explain repeated injuries.
Emotional/Psychological – This abuse can mean the verbal or non-verbal infliction of stress, mental pain, or anguish on an elderly individual. Examples of verbal abuse include intimidation through threats or yelling, ridicule, blaming, or lewd comments. Non-verbal abuse includes ignoring an elderly individual, isolating an elderly individual from social activities, friends, or family, or terrorizing an elder. Signs of this abuse may include social withdrawal, unwillingness to communicate, unresponsiveness, fear or suspicion, evasiveness, or chronic pain.
Sexual – Sexual abuse includes sexual harassment or any non-consensual sexual act with an elderly adult. Signs of sexual abuse may include ripped or torn underwear, bloody underwear, bruising of the breasts or genital region, sexually transmitted diseases, vaginal infections, or unexplained genital or anal bleeding.
Neglect – This is the refusal or failure to provide basic necessities, such as food, water, shelter, or protection. Neglect may include poor hygiene, lack of sufficient meals and nutrition, or poor amenities. Sunken eyes or weight loss, extreme thirst, and bed sores may all be signs of neglect.
Exploitation – This includes the illegal use of funds or property, misuse of funds or property, or theft of funds or property of an elderly adult. Signs of exploitation may include large amounts of money being withdrawn from a bank account, identity theft, or checks with forged signatures.

It is important to be aware and knowledgeable of the forms elders abuse takes. There are no typical patterns of abuse; it takes different forms in different situations. Elder abuse often occurs with elderly individuals who are frail, ill, or physically or mentally impaired; however, elderly individuals who do not have these risk factors may also be victims to elder abuse.

Elder abuse is never acceptable, regardless of the situation and stress people are under. Interventions can cease elder abuse. In the event that you suspect an elder is the victim of abuse, it is critical that you address the issue. There are a number of channels that you can take, from speaking to a caregiver or nursing facility, to reporting the abuse to authorities, or seeking legal assistance from an attorney. The types of abuse and situational circumstances will help dictate which approach to take.

An attorney can help you determine what steps you should take in the event that you suspect a loved one is being abused. Speak up and seek assistance to ensure that the abuse does not continue.

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