Causes Of Elder Abuse

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Elder Abuse
Every year millions of people in the United States are victims of elder abuse. As the population of older adults increases, so too do cases of elder abuse. While many cases of elder abuse are reported to the authorities, many more are not. Elder abuse is a serious issue.

Elder abuse encompasses physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, and neglect. It relates to any sort of action by a caregiver or any other person in which they knowingly, intentionally, or negligently cause harm or risk harm to an elderly adult. Below are definitions of common sorts of elder abuse.

Physical abuse - This is the infliction, or the threat to inflict, physical pain or injury on an elderly individual. Examples of this include hitting, pushing, or slapping. This may be evidenced by bruising, lacerations, sores, or broken bones.
Emotional abuse - This is the infliction of mental stress, pain, or anguish through non-verbal or verbal actions. Verbal examples include yelling at an individual, threatening or being demeaning, or making lewd comments. Non-verbal examples include ignoring an elderly adult, isolating adults, or terrorizing them. Emotional abuse may be evidenced by social withdrawal, fear, anger, outbursts, or other similar acts.
Sexual Abuse - This encompasses any sort of sexual harassment or non-consensual sexual acts with an elderly adult. Signs of sexual abuse may include bruising in the breast or genital region, sexually transmitted diseases, torn or bloody underwear, or other physical signs.
Exploitation - This may involve using an elderly individual's funds or property without permission, such as stealing money, forging signatures, or identity theft.

Causes of Elder Abuse

There are many reasons that an individual might engage in abusing an elderly individual. Abusers can be spouses, children, caregivers, or any other adults with whom elderly individuals have contact. While not an all inclusive list of reasons for why elder abuse occurs, a few factors commonly attributed to it include family situations, such as domestic violence that has been lifelong or a cycle of violence; caregiver problems, including personal problems of the abusers; and cultural issues, in which certain societal attitudes, such as lack of respect for adults or social acceptance of mistreatment of women, make abuse less of an issue.

Family Situations
Persistence of domestic violence - Domestic violence that has occurred between spouses or different generations can continue into old age. Spouses constitute a large percentage of abusers in elder abuse cases.
Family stress - The addition of an elderly individual into a family member's home, the struggle to care for an elderly adult, or the financial burden of caring for an elderly adult can cause stress on caregivers, which can manifest itself as abuse.

Caregiver Problems
Abusers' personal issues - Abusers may be dependent upon their victims for support, financially or otherwise. In addition, they may have problems with chemical dependency, mental illness, or psychological issues. When individuals with these problems live with elder adults, the risk for abuse can increase.
Caregivers can be burdened by caring for an elderly adult who is sick, physically impaired, or mentally impaired. Caregivers can feel helpless or trapped, unsure of what resources they can turn to for assistance. In addition, the cost of caring for older adults with physical or mental impairments can create a financial problem or physical problem for caregivers. Without necessary resources to provide thorough care, the risk of abuse can increase.

Cultural Issues
Some individuals or communities hold a lack of respect for elderly adults. They may be regarded as disposable, thus leading to an increased risk of abuse.
Some ethical or religious belief systems permit the mistreatment of family members, and in particular, of women. Members of these belief systems may not view certain actions as abusive, and victims of the abuse many not recognize their mistreatment as abuse.

Elder abuse is a very serious issue. One of the best ways to avoid it is to become educated about what it is and how elder abuse can be prevented. In the event that you know an elderly individual who is the victim of abuse, there are many resources you can turn to, from public authorities to legal professionals. If you believe someone you know is the victim of elder abuse, seek help.


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