The statistic is staggering in our lives – it is estimated 1 out of every 10 people (60 and older who live at home) experience abuse of some form in America. There are likely more victims but they are physically unable to report it or too scared to report it, according to experts. Ahead of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15th, we want to raise awareness and provide information about this significant public health scourge.
TYPES OF ABUSE
Maltreatment of the elderly comes in numerous forms, all of which reinforce an unspeakable level of depravity that prays upon the most vulnerable members of our society: physical, sexual, emotional, neglect and financial abuse. The abuse can happen anywhere and at any time.
WHO IS LIKELY TO BECOME A VICTIM
According to the National Institute on Aging, the majority of victims of elder abuse are women but men are not immune. People who have no close friends or family are especially vulnerable because their safety net is far less secure. Also, people who have memory problems or disabilities are more apt to be targets.
A disturbing case of elderly abuse in Houston made recent, national headlines. The family of a 94-year old woman found bruises on their loved one. They decided to install a surveillance camera and the video captured a caregiver assaulting the women. The caregiver was seen yelling at the 94-year old woman and slapping her multiple times. According to police, the senior suffered from dementia.
SIGNS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Senior citizens who are physically abused may show signs of unexplained injuries such as bruises, scars, welts, broken bones or sprains. They may also be living with eyeglasses broken recently, fresh marks or abrasions on their wrists, or experiencing unusual weight loss.
While some signs are obvious, there are others which may be subtle. Is their caregiver exhibiting controlling or threatening behavior? Does your loved one easily cower or suddenly become withdrawn? The caregiver may also start to behave with resentment toward your loved one or view them as a heavy burden in their lives. Also, pay attention to the financial situation of the senior citizen. If there is cash missing or unexplained account changes, this is a red-flag of elder abuse.
WHAT CAN I DO?
“If you see something, say something,” stresses Andres Cruz, Vice President of Pride PHC, which for 19 years has been providing compassionate care to senior citizens and the homebound in South Texas. “Don’t be afraid to call police if you sense that there is a abusive situation involving the senior citizen in your life.”
Cruz also recommends that you visit your loved one often and talk to them about their daily activities to confirm that they are in a good state of health. Also, you may want to contact your local Adult Protective Services to find out how you can get involved to support the elderly. There is even a Texas Abuse Hotline available to report abuse in South Texas.