Elder Abuse (Part 2 of 3) – Signs, Risks and Consequences

Elder abuse is a serious subject that no one likes to talk about, but it happens every day.  Most of the time, the abuse is committed by a friend, acquaintance, or a family member.  It can happen as a result of frustration either at the senior or from something else going on in the abuser’s life.  It causes lasting effects for the victims that are difficult to recover from.

Signs of abuse

Three main signs of abuse include sudden changes in the senior’s appearance, sudden increase of physical injuries, or extreme changes in finances.  However, several types of abuse happen to seniors and each one has its own signals for outsiders to be aware of.

  • Signs of neglect include a lack of appropriate clean clothing, dehydration, missing or broken aids such as glasses, hearing aids, dentures, malnourished, and an odour from not bathing, hazardous living conditions with fleas, lice, or other issues.
  • Signs of physical abuse include multiple wounds that are in different stages, bruises, cuts or other open sores, sprains and dislocations, black eyes, and marks from restraints around the wrists and ankles.
  • Signs of emotional abuse are harder to recognize but the victim may become withdrawn and non-responsive.  They may exhibit such behaviours such as biting or rocking back and forth.  Many of these indicators are attributed to a form of dementia and go unrecognized as signs of abuse.
  • Signs of financial abuse include sudden changes in the senior’s bank account or unexplained charges on a credit card.  Valuable items may be missing from around the house.
  • Signs of abuse in an institution include overcrowding and unsanitary living conditions. Seniors may not be receiving adequate care and the staff may be aggressive.  Restraints may be used inappropriately to control the residents.

Risk Factors

No situation can excuse elder abuse.  However, certain factors do increase the risk for elder abuse.  These factors affect both the senior and the family caregiver.

Risk factors for the family caregiver:

  • They are unable to cope with stress.
  • They have severe depression.
  • They have no support network from family or friends.
  • They are substance abusers.

Risk Factors for the senior:

  • The severity of the person’s physical or mental illness.
  • Limited social interaction with anyone other than the caregiver.
  • Former abuse by the senior towards the caregiver.
  • A history of domestic violence surrounding the family.
  • Verbal or physical aggression towards the caregiver.

The Consequences of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse has lasting consequences to the victim.  It can cause permanent or long-term physical and psychological results that the seniors and their families must deal with.  The emotional results include anxiety and depression, panic attacks, and withdrawing from society and even family and friends.  They may be constantly afraid and either not want to be left alone or not want to be around people.

The physical impacts are just as serious.  Abuse can cause a heart attack or stroke, high blood pressure, angina, over-medication or even under-medication, and possibly death.  Along with these results, a person who has been financially abused may no longer be able to provide for themselves.  They can end up homeless because they cannot afford their home or are unable to pay the bills such as utilities and buy food.

Victims of elder abuse are often silent, just like the victims of any type of abuse.  They have several reasons that keep them from telling anyone about their situation.  They may be afraid that no one else will take care of them if they do not have their abusive family caregiver to help them.  They may also fear that no one will believe them and that the abuse will get worse if they tell.

Seniors are often ashamed to tell anyone, thinking it must be their fault.  They think that if they had been a better parent, then they would not be treated this way.  They may believe they deserve the treatment, especially if they were abusive to the family caregiver.  They may not want their children to get in trouble if they are the abusers.  In certain situations, they may be unable to tell if they do not have contact with other people.  The family caregiver may say that they have dementia and do not know what they are talking about.

Our caregivers at Carefect Homecare services are trained to look for signs of abuse.  If you are a senior being abused or a family member that suspects abuse, you can talk to our caregivers or call our office.  As homecare service providers, we spend a lot of time in seniors’ homes and can notice signs that others may miss.  Our goal is to provide a safe, sanitary place for seniors to live.