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Elder Abuse

Reviewed by: MySeniorCare Staff
Last Updated: 4/13/2010 3:59:40 PM

When we contemplate elder abuse, we may immediately assume that elder abuse and neglect are things that happen at the hands of people in health care facilities, not in our own homes.

Both of these ideas are only illusions, as the most likely perpetrator of elder abuse may be the face you see in the mirror each morning.

While no loyal caregiver, spouse or adult child can imagine that their face would be that of the abuser, according to the Administration on Aging's National Elder Abuse Incidence Study, nine out of ten times the perpetrators of elder abuse were family members.

Who Are the Abusers?

Family caregivers were found most often to be responsible for domestic abuse and neglect, according to the study.

Most frequently the abusers were adult children of the senior, followed by the elder's spouse. Other members of the family, including grandchildren were the next group, followed by neighbors and friends.

Less than three percent of elder abuse was at the hands of in-home service providers, and 1.4 percent was perpetrated by out-of home service providers. (AOA)

Types of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse may include obvious forms of abuse including physical, sexual or financial abuse. Abandonment and neglect of an elderly person in your care are also forms of abuse.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), most forms of elder abuse are subtle and non-extreme. Psychological abuse, verbal abuse, isolation or any caregiver behavior which causes distress is considered abuse, according to the APA.

Another subtle form of neglect is self-neglect, a condition common mostly among female elders who are depressed, according to the AOA study. Part of caregiving includes watching the elder for signs of self-neglect, and ignoring self-neglect of an elder only compounds the situation.

Victims of Elder Abuse

Elders most at risk for abuse are those who cannot care for themselves. Female elders are more likely to suffer from physical, emotional, psychological, financial abuse, maltreatment and neglect. Elder men are more likely to be the victims of abandonment, according to the AOA study.

Causes & Solutions for Elder Abuse

Elder abuse occurs for different reasons. With awareness and education, caregivers can maintain their helpful roles and not fall down a path which leads to abuse.

Caregiving Skills

Family members who have caregiving thrust upon them may feel unprepared to care for their elderly parents. "Lack of knowledge of caregiving skills" may contribute to elder abuse. Caregivers can educate themselves on the caregiving process by contacting their local Area Agency on Aging.

The National Family Caregivers Association provides free telecare classes for caregivers. For more information call 1-800-896-3650.

Living Together, Social Isolation

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, elders who live with someone else and are socially isolated tend to have higher abuse rates.

For caregivers who have an elder family member living at home, keeping social obligations outside the home, and finding regular activities for the able senior at a local senior center or day hospital may help ease the tensions at home.

Spousal Abuse

Domestic abuse does not stop at retirement age. Elder abuse by spouses accounts for a substantial number of cases, according to the NCEA. Family members who suspect elder abuse by a spouse need to intervene immediately.

Taking Action

The Administration on Aging advises that people who suspect immediate danger due to elder abuse should call 911. Suspected elder abuse may also be reported by calling elder abuse hotlines or by calling 1-800-677-1116.

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