Elder abuse is an under-reported epidemic impacting an estimated one-in-ten aging adults. It cuts across every racial, ethnic, cultural, and economic demographic, and can cause incalculable pain and suffering. This is not including potentially staggering financial losses.
One unsettling correlation, however, is that seniors with dementia are disproportionately targeted for elder abuse.
Nearly one-in-two aging adults with dementia, or roughly 47 percent, has experienced abuse, according to the University of California, Irvine Center on Elder Abuse and Neglect. Further, the National Council on Aging states that abused seniors, in general, have a 300 percent higher risk of death than those who are not abused.
This means that family members and friends need to be extra vigilant, especially since seniors with dementia suffer from impaired memory, communication skills, and judgment. They are also less likely to report abuse, less likely to be believed when they do speak up, and they might not even be aware that abuse is happening.
Elder abuse is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “an intentional act, or failure to act, by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult.” It can be physical, emotional or sexual in nature, and include financial exploitation and neglect.
As you look to protect the elders in your life, learning the warning signs of potential elder abuse can greatly help you identify them.
These issues can include, but not be limited to, signs that are:
Physical Warning Signs
- Unexplained injuries, like bruises, welts, abrasions and broken bones
- Unusual weight loss, malnutrition or dehydration
Emotional Warning Signs
- Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities
- Isolation, depression, despondence or other distinct changes in behavior
Financial Warning Signs
- Missing cash or valuable items
- Sudden changes in an older adult’s financial situation
Neglect Warning Signs
- Bedsores, unattended medical needs, and poor hygiene
- Being left dirty or unbathed
- Unsuitable clothing or covering for the weather
- A caregiver who refuses to let others see the elder adult without them being present
- Belittling, threats or other attempts to intimidate them
- An elder adult having frequent arguments with their caregiver
If you notice any warning signs, do not hesitate to take action. This could include removing your senior loved one from their current living arrangements. In addition, you should report your concerns immediately. In Florida, you can learn more about how to report abuse on the state’s website by clicking this link or call 800-962-2873.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Our goal is to answer your elder care questions on this or any such matter and to provide continuing support for your needs in our community. Do not wait to contact us so that we may help you and your loved ones.