Seniors: Warning Signs of Elder Abuse

Mar 18th, 2011 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Has someone you care for and take care of shown uncharacteristic evidence of withdrawal and shyness?  Is there a growing sense of unease that seems to have surfaced?  Is there a strange fear that has crept into behavior and attitude?

If so, these may be signs of abuse.  Elders who have undergone adjustments and changes in their health and life sometime are victimized by those who are charged with their care. 

This may range from family members to employees or attendants in care facilities, and sometime even within their own home. 

Getting to the bottom of this requires someone, courageous enough, to seek out hints and evidence of what may be going on.  And, what may be going on may be so intimidating to the patient that arriving at indisputable evidence may be difficult.

Particularly is it so that abuse may occur within one’s own home.  Finding a means for gathering information that may help identify behaviors that are harmful will require cunning and perhaps even confrontation.  Cunning may be achieved through having friends or objective family members make surprise visits, when the caretaker least expects someone to drop by.  If the patient perceives that this may be a good time to seek help, encouragement to getting it all out could be wise.  Putting the abuser in the position to become defensive is a good strategy.  Trusting the report of the elder, showing definitive understanding will enable an honest pouring out of feelings.

If the abuse occurs in a care facility, the need for collaborative input will be essential.  Letting it go on too long may discourage the elder from trusting anyone.  Allowing persons who abuse to hide behind accusations of paranoia on the part of the elder should be themselves suspect. 

Of course, before having enrolled an elder in a care facility, thorough investigations of their record and any reports of abuse that may be on file with the state licensing board should be done.  Prevention is, as always, the wisest course.

If there is undeniable evidence of abuse, every effort should be exhausted to get to the bottom of the matter, with appropriate managerial action, and, if necessary legal recourse.

Be aware of the possibility of  abusive behavior by engaging in frequent conversations with the patient in order to bring out information that may be helpful.  Never be in such a hurry, whether in person or by phone, that questions and conversation focusing on the elder’s satisfaction with his/her situation are not allowed.

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