By Cindy K. Sproles
This country has seen a recent rise in elder abuse and fraud. In lieu of these issues it’s important that families and friends of the elderly understand the types of abuse which plague our seniors, educate themselves, and become an active force in recognizing and protecting loved ones.
The word “abuse” alone sends a chill down your back, and in a world of such uncertainty, not only are children attacked, but our elderly are prime targets as well.
Abuse rears its ugly head in more forms other than just physical attacks. Learn to understand the methods which plague our senior citizens and know how to react.
Mental Abuse – Many times, impatience brews in family members, friends, or caregivers as seniors become increasingly more dependent. As their mental capabilities deteriorate and the level of understanding normal daily routines falters, individuals become “curt” or “short” with seniors. Frustration rises because seniors may be a bit more contrary than in the past. It’s not uncommon for individuals to “brow beat” seniors, verbally attacking their sense of dignity and degrading their sense of self-worth. Remember, words spoken can never be taken back. Despite the mental level of a senior, words, can and do, cut to the core. Chose your words carefully and learn coping skills to help manage the frustration that may grow while caregiving.
Financial Abuse— Our seniors worked hard through the years, scrimping and saving, for their retirement. At best, many live a meager lifestyle. Unfortunately, predators do not choose their victims by wealth, rather by vulnerability. Elders fall victim to phone scams, door-to-door salesman, slick con men, even neighbors who will take advantage of someone who is unable to care for themselves. Worse yet, are family predators – those within the immediate family, who freely take from the finances of their seniors without permission or under the smoke screen of “caring” for their needs.
Choose a financial caretaker over senior funds. Be it a trusted family member, a banking institution, or an accountant who is required to provide monthly updates on funds, expenses, and reconciled bank statements. There is generally a small monthly fee for this service, but it is one that secures a safety net for your loved one. The point is to have a plan that holds that financial caretaker responsible and accountable for the job they are entrusted.
Physical Abuse – Though it’s hard to imagine, physical abuse happens more frequently than we want to believe. Keep a close eye on your senior. Should you notice flinching when you approach, as though they fear being struck, take that as a red flag and investigate. Notice any bruising or unusual pain. Keep a continued check on behaviors, constant sleeping, loss of weight, even a sudden change in speech. All these things can stem back to physical abuse. Be proactive in your aging parent’s daily life, whether they are at home with caregivers or in a facility. Never keep the same visitation schedule, rather rotate visits and times. When caregivers or facilities are not sure you are going to pop in, they remain more proactive. Finally, when any signs of abuse appear, act immediately. The happiness, safety, and care of your loved one ultimately depends on you.
Medical Abuse – This is one type of abuse that is especially scary. Whether in a facility or at home, be aware of all medications being administered to your loved one. Keep a physical check on prescriptions, number of pills, and the reaction of your loved one. Are they being dosed with medications to force them to sleep? Is this necessary? Are medications given properly and is your loved one responding well? These are all questions we are forced to ask.
Reputable pharmacies or home health nurses will fill personal pill holders for individuals. However ever you choose to manage medications, keep a close eye on them and monitor your loved ones constantly.
Elder abuse comes in many forms and as the care for your loved one grows more intense, seek the necessary help needed to best care and maintain the safety of your aging parent.