Elder Abuse (Part 1 of 3) – What and Who

Elder abuse is one of those things we don’t like to think about happening to people we know.  However, it is a situation that occurs far more often than we would like to admit.  It’s important as a caregiver for your senior family member that you understand what it is and what happens as a result.

Statistics Involving Elder Abuse

According to information conducted by Statistics Canada, violence against seniors increased by 20 percent in between 1998 and 2005.  This is just the number of cases that were actually reported to police.  Numerous other cases go unreported.

More women are physically abused than men, but you might be surprised to learn the difference is not that great.  Senior men do suffer abuse and may not report it as often as women because they do not think they will be believed.  When it comes to financial abuse, men were more often the victims than women.

Types of Abuse

Several forms of abuse happen among seniors. These include the following:

  • Neglect –  While the person may not be technically abused, their physical needs are not met. They may not have food to eat or appropriate heating or cooling for their home. They may also not get baths or have clean clothes to wear.  They may not get their medication or medical assistance when needed.
  • Physical abuse – This is the most obvious form of abuse, but it can go unnoticed since older people fall more often and get bruises.  It can show up in the form of hitting, pushing, striking with an object, shaking, shoving, or burning the person.  It can also include sexual abuse.
  • Emotional or mental abuse – This often goes unnoticed because it does not leave physical evidence.  It happens when someone is verbally cruel or plays upon the emotions of the senior.  This shows in shouting or bullying, threats of physical violence, humiliation, or isolation.
  • Financial abuse – This type of abuse occur when someone is draining a senior’s bank account or stealing cash from a senior.  People who do this type of abuse may forge a signature or steal belongings to sell.  They may live with the senior and not contribute to the costs.

Who is The Abuser?

In 32 percent of reported cases, the abuser is related to the victim.  They may be a son or a daughter or a spouse of an adult child.  They may also be the spouse of the victim, friends or acquaintances.  That said, two-thirds of elder abuse reported is physical abuse regardless of the relationship with the abuser.

Elder abuse can also come at the hands of caregivers or service providers who work with the senior on a regular basis.  This can include institutions where the senior resides such as a nursing home or assisted living facility.

The motive for those who abuse their senior family members is frustration.  Financial gain does not play a large role, but it can be a factor.

Many times the abuse comes as a result of the family caregiver feeling overwhelmed or exhausted by the care they have been providing for their senior loved one.  It may not be a deliberate act or one that is done out of anger of evil intention.  Instead it can happen when a person does not feel like helping their senior to the bathroom because they are too tired.  They may let them sit in filthy clothing because they do not feel like giving a bath.

Abusers were more likely to be men and have a history of substance abuse or have had other life troubles.  They may be alcohol abusers and are more likely to live with the victim.  These people also have a high level of stress in their lives.  This does not alleviate them of any responsibility for their actions, but it is merely an indicator of the type of person who abuses their senior family members.

These statistics demonstrate the seriousness of elder abuse and the prevalence of it around everyone.  It is the responsibility of everyone to pay attention and encourage seniors to report any suspected abuse.

At Carefect homecare Services, our caregivers are trained to notice the signs of abuse and to report any suspected neglect or abuse of those seniors in their care.  We provide homecare services such as housekeeping and personal care to help family members who need a break.  This service is designed to prevent worn out family caregivers from behaviors they will later regret.  We can give you a break so you can rest and be better prepared to deal with the needs of your senior loved ones.