“In 2008, one in 10 elders reported emotional, physical, or sexual mistreatment or potential neglect in the past year.”
CDC Fact Sheet on Elder Abuse
As I tuck my Mom and Dad into bed each night, I silently thank God that they are safe. Neither of my parents is able to live independently anymore. We provide support for their food, personal hygiene, financial management, shelter, emotional well-being and medical attention. Failure on our part to make provisions in any of these areas would constitute abuse.
Symptom: Abuse Situations
Consider these vignettes. Several of them are experiences I have been personally involved with as a Home Health Nurse. Others are sad situations that I have heard about from friends who work in the Health Care field or family and friends with personal experience.
A bedbound elderly patient, dependent on oxygen, annoys her caregiver. So the caregiver turns off her oxygen.
An elderly cancer patient is in pain. “Are you taking your Oxycontin as it is prescribed?” I asked. “There are none left”, she responds. I look at the glassy eyed, disheveled adult son, and knew immediately how they had disappeared.
As an elderly woman is dying, her caregiver is using her charge cards to create financial havoc in excess of $10,000.
An elderly gentleman is physically abused and injured by a caregiver in a facility, ultimately leading to his death.
Another elderly woman is cared for in one son’s home while another son lives in her house and uses her social security checks for himself…not contributing financially to her care.
Diagnosis: Elder Abuse
Elder abuse is a sad fact. As long as there are the vulnerable, there will be those who will prey on them. Abuse comes in many forms – neglect, financial exploitation, physical harm, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment and self-neglect.
Elder abuse settings are varied. Abuse of the elderly occurs in their own homes, in care facilities and in the homes of their own relatives who should be advocating for them.
- If your loved one is in a facility, your consistent presence is of vital importance. Get to know the caregivers well. Try to visit at different times of the day. If possible, visit when your elder is having a shower so you might visualize his skin. Bruising and abrasions can be symptoms of mistreatment. And pressure ulcers can be a sign of neglect.
- Carefully observe the interactions between your loved one and staff/caregivers. Notice if his behavior changes when caregivers enter his space. Agitation or sudden withdrawal is suspicious behavior.
- Is your loved one clean? Are his clothes clean, nails? Has he been showered or bathed on a regular basis?
- Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities or unusual depression may indicate emotional or verbal abuse. This is especially true if it is accompanied by tense or argumentative behavior by the caregiver.
- Report suspected abuse to Adult Protective Services for your area. And if your loved one is in a Long Term Care Facility, you should contact the LTC Ombudsman. If an elderly person is in immediate danger you should call 911 and report to the police.
- Helpful links:
Because my mom has Alzheimer’s Disease, she would be especially vulnerable to abuse. Her memory impairment would prohibit her from asking for help. She is one of the “least of these” that Christ calls us to provide for and protect.
And there are millions just like her.