June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The biggest problem with elder abuse is that there are a lot of gray areas when elder abuse takes place. A lot of elder abuse signs can be vague or seem easy to blame on other reasonable causes. It is particularly difficult when it comes to seniors who are unable to communicate what is going on or have memory issues such as dementia.
Forms of Elder Abuse
There are many forms of elder abuse as well. Elder abuse isn’t just physical abuse. We’re going to talk about the different forms of elder abuse to best protect our loved ones from being taken advantage of or mistreated in any way. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is an important time to learn about various forms of elder abuse. There are six different types of elder abuse.
Physical Abuse – World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
The first type of elder abuse is also the most obvious category, physical abuse. I’m sure we all know that physical abuse is any sort of bodily harm, pain, impairment or restraint that a person intentionally subjects another person to. Most often, abusers are people who provide care to the senior. This could be a family member, or nurse, or other type of caregiver. Usually, the abuse takes place where the senior lives, which can be either at home, or is a nursing facility.
Some signs of physical abuse are much more subtle than others. Signs of physical abuse can include unusual bruising, broken bones, dislocations, burns, abrasions, internal organ damage, and patterns of bruising or abrasions that resemble straps or ropes. One of the things that make physical abuse easier to spot is bilateral bruising, or somewhat symmetrical bruising. Any kind of injury that appears pretty evenly on both sides indicates that something is wrong. It would be very unusual for bilateral bruises, abrasions, or injuries to occur naturally. Multicolored bruises across the body that indicate that the injuries were sustained over many different days are also a sign. There are also behavioral indicators of physical abuse.
If the explanations for the injury seem unlikely or improbable, it should raise a red flag, especially if the story changes. Abusers may take the senior to different hospitals for every injury, so that hospital staff do not recognize a pattern of abuse. The senior may also seem to act differently when the abuser is around.
The second type of elder abuse is sexual abuse. Sexual abuse obviously includes rape, and molestation, but also includes any sexual conduct with a person who is not in a mental state to understand or consent to it. Sexual abuse of seniors tends to occur at the hands of caretakers. These are usually people who are responsible for intimate care, such as bathing, changing diapers, dressing, and other tasks. Unfortunately, sometimes one resident at a facility may assault another resident, too.
Most victims of elder sexual abuse are women. Victims, however, can also be men. People with cognitive disabilities or physical disabilities are at the highest risk, particularly if they have dementia and lack a family support system. Seniors who are isolated, maybe because their children live far away or family members can’t visit often, are also at a higher risk for being abused in some way. Bruising on the inner thighs or outer genitalia are signs of abuse. Other signs of sexual abuse include torn, stained, or bloody underwear, pain or bleeding, difficulty sitting or walking, and STD’s.
The third type of elder abuse is domestic violence. Domestic violence occurs with an intimate partner, such as a significant other or spouse. Domestic violence is characterized by an intimate partner using or threatening violence in order to manipulate or control the other person’s behavior. This can occur in seniors either as a continuation of domestic violence that began many years prior, or as late onset domestic abuse. Late onset domestic violence can be triggered by retirement, disability, changing roles, sexual changes, or other situations where the other person may feel helpless, out of control, or inferior. Some seniors can also enter into new relationships that are abusive. Most frequently, senior victims of domestic violence are women.
Psychological Abuse – World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
The fourth type of elder abuse is psychological abuse. Psychological abuse consists of intentional emotional or mental suffering inflicted on a senior through threats, humiliation, or any other type of verbal or non-verbal behavior. Psychological abuse can look different across different cultures. Seniors who are isolated are particularly at risk for psychological abuse, especially when the abuser is responsible for their caregiving.
There may be some physical indications of psychological abuse. Things to watch for are unexplained weight loss that is not attributed to other health issues. Signs of elevated stress are also something to watch for. This could include high blood pressure, anxiety or depression, self-soothing habits such as playing with fingers or tapping or shaking legs. Psychologically abused seniors may develop difficulty sleeping or other sleep disturbances. They may be experiencing new or worsened anxiety or depression. Their behavior may change when in the presence of their abuser, such as looking at the floor or becoming passive. They may also become withdrawn, unresponsive, or become irritable, agitated, or upset. They may also exhibit signs of dementia, such as rocking, biting, or sucking.
The fifth type of elder abuse is financial abuse. Financial abuse is more prevalent than you might assume, particularly by strangers. Things that constitute financial abuse are telemarketing scams, email scams, fraud, forging of signature for financial benefit or taking money or property. Other ways include manipulating a senior into signing a will, deed, or power of attorney through coercion or deception. Seniors with family members suffering from any kind of addiction are at a higher risk for financial abuse.
Abusers are usually people who may be in financial trouble, stand to inherit money, feel a sense of entitlement to the senior’s money, pretend to be in love with the senior, become confidants, overcharge for their services or use their position of power to influence a senior in compliance. Because people over 50 control over 70 percent of wealth in this country, seniors make an attractive target. To discover financial abuse, one must carefully look over bank statements, bills, and legal documents for anything unusual.
The last kind of elder abuse is neglect. Neglect is when a caregiver fails to perform their responsibilities in caring for the senior. There are two types of neglect: passive and active. Active neglect is when the caregiver withholds care consciously and intentionally. Motives for active neglect may be to manipulate the senior for personal gain, or as a way to control or gain leverage.
Passive neglect is when the caregiver is unable to provide the care they are responsible for due to disability, illness, lack of time or ability to perform tasks, lack of resources, or addiction. Self-neglect occurs when the senior is responsible for their lack of care and there is no perpetrator. Caregivers, whether they are paid or family members, are typically the ones responsible for neglect. Neglect is more common in seniors with health issues that require a great deal of care. Caregivers may become overwhelmed or exhausted, which can result in neglect.
Personalized Cause and World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
Today we learned about World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Personalized Cause®, an awareness accessory company that specializes in custom awareness ribbons, writes this blog. Custom awareness ribbons are a product unique to our business. We offer our customers the ability to order a single or multiple personalized awareness ribbons. Customers may choose a name, date, phrase or message engraved on an awareness ribbon. We are the only business in the United States to offer this unique product with no bulk order minimums. You can order as many or as few as you want. If custom awareness ribbons aren’t your thing we also carry classic awareness ribbons, fabric ribbons, and silicone wristbands.
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