In the present century, older people have increasingly become visible, more independent and assuming active roles in society. While most of them are reportedly living longer and having better health, there has been a growing hidden problem facing them; elderly abuse, neglect and exploitation (American Psychological Association 1). The greater percentage of these elderly individuals are being abused while in their own homes, in the homes or their relatives of even in the various facilities that have been mandated to care for this vulnerable group of individuals. Elderly abuse entails the act of doing something or even failing to do a thing whose end result either harms an elderly person or subjects him or her to risk of harm. As the elderly in society become more and more physically fragile, they also become less in a position to defend themselves against bullying. They also can hardly fight back in the event that they are attacked. Moreover, they may not hear, see or think as clearly as they used to in their younger age and this opens a window for dodgy individuals to capitalize on them (Robinson, De Benedicts and Segal 1). In addition, physical and/or mental ailments may make these elderly in society more demanding companions to those with whom they are living with.
Across the globe, vast numbers of the seniors have fallen victims of abuse; actually being substantially directly harmed by those who would otherwise be taking good care of them. In the United States of America, for example, the total number or elderly abuse cases reaching the authorities exceeds five hundred thousand; with the unreported ones exceeding a million. As the elderly abuses take place in the places these elderly do live, the abusers are their adult children and other members of the family including spouses of the elderly and/or their grandchildren (Roubicek 5).
Types of Elderly Abuse
Abuse of the elderly in society assumes different forms. While some entail intimidating or threatening the seniors, other forms of elderly abuse entail neglecting them. The elderly may also be abused through financial deception. The most common forms of elderly abuse are discussed below.
Physical abuse of the elderly entails the non-accidental use of force against an individual who is elderly resulting in causing pain, injuring or impairing the elderly. This form of abuse may entail, but not limited to, such acts of violence as hitting, striking (using an object or not), pushing, beating, shaking, shoving, kicking, slapping, burning and pinching. In addition to the above enlisted, physical elderly abuse may also be as a result of physical restraints, inappropriate use of drugs, forced feeding and any other form of physical punishment (Robinson and De Benedictis 1). The act of depriving the elderly of the basic needs (food, shelter and clothing) also amounts to physical abuse. Of all the reported cases of elderly abuse, a quarter of them are physical abuse. There are a number of signs and symptoms of physical abuse. The primary ones are physical signs and sudden changes in the behavior of the seniors or even the refusal on the part of the caregiver to give way for visitors to see the elderly on their own.
This form of elderly abuse is also referred to as the psychological senior abuse and it entails people speaking to or even treating the elderly in their midst in such ways which distress or cause emotional pain to the elderly. Though accounting for 36% of the total abuses, emotional abuse can prove to be quite difficult to detect unless it is witnessed. Those seniors who are emotionally abused are likely to display changes in their behavior, show some form of fear in the presence of the abuser, withdrawal and agitation. Emotional abuse diminishes the dignity, identity as well as self-worth of the elderly (Sewell 1). Some of the forms of this kind of abuse include name-calling, yelling, ignoring the elderly, shouting or scolding, issues threats, insulting, intimidation, provoking fear, humiliation, emotional deprivation, taking away from them the power of making decisions, isolation and infantalization.
Sexual abuse of the elderly is witnessed in the event of sexual contact with the senior without his or her consent. It is actually any form of non-consensual sexual contact and may entail physical sex acts, exposing them to pornographic material, forcing the elderly to undress or forcing him or her to watch acts of sex. As is the case with emotional abuse, detecting sexual abuse may prove to be challenging except for the individuals taking part in the various nursing care. Sexual abuse is characterized by physical signs and examples of this form of abuse of the senior include sexual harassment and sexual assault (Sewell 1). Other forms of sexual senior abuse include suggestive or verbal behavior, fondling, lack of personal privacy, unnecessary help with hygiene and/or dressing and being forced to commit acts of a degrading nature. Among the symptoms of sexual abuse include bruises around the genitals or breasts, unexplained anal or vaginal bleeding, unexplained venereal diseases and/or genital infections and torn, bloody or stained clothing of the elderly.
Abandonment or Neglect by caregivers
Neglecting or even failing to fulfill the caretaking responsibilities in a satisfactory manner can also be termed as abuse of the seniors. Neglect accounts for over 50% of all the elderly abuse cases that have been reported. Neglect can either be intentional (active) or unintentional (passive). However, this is founded on a number of factors including denial or ignorance that the elderly changes needs frequently. Neglect of the seniors may include offering inadequate or withholding the provision of most or all physical basics including food, medicine, shelter, physical aids and clothing; inadequate supervision, inadequate hygiene, denial of access to necessary services and withholding medical services (AEAAN 2). In a nutshell, neglect entails depriving a senior of his or her basic rights. For a number of reasons, the elderly themselves may fail to provide themselves with adequate care. If this is the case, the same is termed as self-neglect. A neglected elderly person has an unusual weight loss, is dehydrated and shows aspects of malnutrition. Other signs of neglect include untreated physical problems (the likes of bed sores), being left un-bathed and dirty, unsanitary conditions, unsafe living conditions, unsuitable clothing with respect to weather and desertion of the seniors at a public place.
Financial or Exploitative Abuse
This is a form of senior abuse involving the unauthorized use of the senior’s property or funds by the caregiver or even an outside rip-off artist. The crooked caregiver might misuse the elder’s credit cards, accounts or personal checks, steal income checks, forge the signature of the elderly, steal cash and households, or engage in identity theft. Among the typical rackets targeting the elderly in society include phony charities, announcements of a prize won by the elderly but has to pay before claiming the same and investment frauds (Tatara and Kuzmeskus 2). Financial abuse is also referred to as material exploitation and this form of abuse of the elderly accounts for 30% of all abuse cases. Some of the signs depicting financial abuse include sudden and unwarranted changes in the financial condition of the elderly, substantial withdrawals from the accounts of the senior, missing items or cash from the elderly’s household, suspicious alterations in the power of attorney, wills, policies and title deeds, inclusion of other names to the senior’s signature cards, unnecessary goods, services and subscriptions, unpaid bills and other financial activities that the elderly could not have done, like ATM withdrawals when the senior is bedridden (Ontario Government 2).
Healthcare Fraud and Abuse
Healthcare fraud and abuse is a form of elderly abuse that is more often than not undertaken by unethical nurses, doctors, other hospital personnel as well as other health professional care providers. This type of abuse may take the forms of failure to provide healthcare but charging for the same, double billing or overcharging for medical services or care, getting kickbacks for either prescribing certain drugs or referrals to other care providers, medical fraud and recommending remedies for illnesses and medical conditions that are fraudulent in nature (NCEA 5). Among the signs of healthcare fraud and abuse include evidence of under-medication or overmedication, duplicate billing for the same medical device or service, evidence of inadequate care even when the necessary payments have been completely made and problems with the caregiving facility, which may be in the form of poorly trained staff who besides being insufficient, are poorly paid, overcrowding in the facility and inadequate responses to care-related queries (Teaster 14).
Risk Factors for Elderly Abuse
It may prove to be quite challenging caring for the elderly in the event that they have many different needs. A great percentage of the non-professional caregivers find caring for the elderly to be not only satisfying, but also enriching. Nevertheless, with the inescapable escalation of the demands and responsibilities of caring of the elderly as a result of deterioration of their condition, the same may prove to be stressful (Teaster 20). This can lead to physical and mental problems which make the caregiver be subjected to burnouts, becoming impatient and feeling that they are incapable of keeping from lashing out against the seniors in their care. The primary risk factors for elderly abuses include lack or resilience, inadequate support from other potential caregivers, depression and substance abuse.
Actions That Can Be Taken To Prevent Elderly Abuse
At times, people may be well informed about or even be suspicious of a family member, friend, acquaintance or neighbor being abused or mistreated. It is therefore important to reach to such a person and chat a way through the same. In the event that a caregiver feels that he or she is being overwhelmed by the various demands of according care to the elderly, he or she can request help from a family member, a relative, a friend or a local care center. Alternatively, one can look for an adult day care program, seek counseling for depression, adopt stress reduction practices or even find a support group for caregivers of the seniors (AEAAN 1).
Various actions can avail great assistance in helping curtail incidences of elderly abuse. However, this may call for greater efforts. Prevention of elderly abuse calls for only three things; listening to both the elderly and their caregivers, intervening in the event of suspected elderly abuse and educating others on how to recognize and subsequently report such abuse (Jackson and Thomas 6). Elderly abuse is disturbing notion given that everyone may age and become a victim of the same.