Here are some of the multiple headlines over a one week span that I found when I “Googled” the following terms – “Alzheimer’s disease” and “elder abuse”:
- The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune from Feb. 16, 2009: “Her family's legacy is gone, and she will never know it.” (The article describes how the Alzheimer’s patient’s son allegedly sold the family farm and also forged more than $100,000 from her account.)
- CNN on Feb. 18, 2009: “Brooke Astor would have been 'mortified' by son's trial”
- The Los Angeles Times from Feb. 20, 2009: “3 arrested in nursing home deaths in Lake Isabella”
So what is elder abuse? How often does it happen? And what should you do if you suspect that elder abuse is happening? I hope this sharepost will help start a conversation about identifying and preventing elder abuse. Often we read about this abuse as a financial situation (such as identity theft), but elder abuse also can be mental or physical in nature. And we often think of it happening by someone who is employed as a hired hand, whether a nursing home staff member or a home health care aide; however, family members are often the abusers of elders who have dementia. So the first step in let’s define what we’re talking about.
What is Elder Abuse?
The National Ceenter for Elder Abuse defines elder abuse as “a term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. The specificity of laws varies from state to state, but broadly defined, abuse may be:
* Physical Abuse - Inflicting, or threatening to inflict, physical pain or injury on a vulnerable elder, or depriving them of a basic need.
* Emotional Abuse - Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts.
* Sexual Abuse - Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
* Exploitation - Illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a vulnerable elder.
* Neglect - Refusal or failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care or protection for a vulnerable elder.
* Abandonment - The desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.”
NCEA reports that while one sign does not necessarily indicate abuse, there are tell- signs that indicate that abuse may be happening. These include:
* Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.
* Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.