We can help reduce the incidence of elder abuse, but it’ll take more effort than we’re making now. Preventing elder abuse means doing three things:
- Listening to seniors and their caregivers
- Intervening when you suspect elder abuse
- Educating others about how to recognize and report elder abuse
If you’re overwhelmed by the demands of caring for an elder, do the following:
- Request help, from friends, relatives, or local respite care agencies, so you can take a break, if only for a couple of hours.
- Find an adult day care program.
- Stay healthy and get medical care for yourself when necessary.
- Adopt stress reduction practices.
- Seek counseling for depression, which can lead to elder abuse.
- Find a support group for caregivers of the elderly.
- If you’re having problems with drug or alcohol abuse, get help.
And remember, elder abuse helplines offer help for caregivers as well. Call a helpline if you think there’s a possibility you might cross the line into elder abuse.What you can do as a concerned friend or family member
- Watch for warning signs that might indicate elder abuse. If you suspect abuse, report it.
- Take a look at the elder’s medications. Does the amount in the vial jive with the date of the prescription?
- Watch for possible financial abuse. Ask the elder if you may scan bank accounts and credit card statements for unauthorized transactions.
- Call and visit as often as you can. Help the elder consider you a trusted confidante.
- Offer to stay with the elder so the caregiver can have a break — on a regular basis, if you can.
- Make sure your financial and legal affairs are in order. If they aren’t, enlist professional help to get them in order, with the assistance of a trusted friend or relative if necessary.
- Keep in touch with family and friends and avoid becoming isolated, which increases your vulnerability to elder abuse.
- If you are unhappy with the care you’re receiving, whether it’s in your own home or in a care facility, speak up. Tell someone you trust and ask that person to report the abuse, neglect, or substandard care to your state’s elder abuse helpline or long term care ombudsman, or make the call yourself.
Finally, if you aren’t in a position to help an elder personally, you can volunteer or donate money to the cause of educating people about elder abuse, and you can lobby to strengthen state laws and policing so that elder abuse can be investigated and prosecuted more readily. The life you save down the line may be your own.References and resources about elder abuseGeneral Information on Elder Abuse
Preventing & Reporting Elder Abuse – 39-page PDF booklet covering many aspects of elder abuse. (California Department of Justice)
Elder Abuse and Neglect: In Search of Solutions – Covers the facts about elder abuse, as well as signs of abuse and steps to take if abuse occurs. (American Psychological Association)
What is Elder Abuse? – Site provides definitions of different types of elder abuse, along with signs and risk factors. (National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse)
Elder abuse: Signs to look for, action to take – Overview of elder abuse: types, signs, and interventions. (Mayo Clinic)
www.ltcombudsman.org An Ombudsman is an advocate for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes, and assisted living. Ombudsmen provide information about how to find a facility and what to do to get quality care. They are trained to resolve problems. If you want, the ombudsman can assist you with complaints. However, unless you give the ombudsman permission to share your concerns, these matters are kept confidential.
Under the federal Older Americans Act, every state is required to have an Ombudsman Program that addresses complaints and advocates for improvements in the long term care system. To find the ombudsman nearest you, contact your State Ombudsman office.
Nursing Home Abuse News – Provides information about elder abuse in nursing homes and steps you can take to protect a loved one from neglect or abuse. (Nursing Home Abuse News)Resources used in researching this article
Distinguishing Between Abuse, Neglect, And Self-Neglect – Defines the different categories of elder mistreatment and resulting psychological symptoms. (University of Missouri at Kansas City)
Elder Financial Abuse – PDF brochure summarizes financial abuse, warning signs, who might exploit an elder, and what to do to prevent elder financial abuse. (San Bernardino County Department of Aging and Adult Services)