An unfortunate yet very real problem that often occurs in caregiving situations is elder abuse. Whether your loved ones are living in their own homes or in an assisted living center, abuse can sadly happen anywhere. According to recent statistics, elder abuse in the form of mistreatment, injury and exploitation has affected between one and two million Americans.
Although these statistics are alarming and saddening, there are many trustworthy caregivers and resources available to families and their loved ones. Elder abuse is certainly a situation that you hope never happens to your loved one, which is why it is important to know what you can do if you suspect your parent is being abused.
Your First Steps
Before you even hire a caregiver, be sure to closely analyze each of the potential caregivers’ experiences and history in this profession. You are entrusting this caregiver with the wellbeing of your loved one, so it is completely acceptable to request references and the completion of a background check, which would reveal any previous acts of abuse or exploitation.
Even after inspecting a caregiver’s credentials and everything looks clear, it is important to continuously keep your eyes and ears open for any signs of elder abuse. Some typical signs include sudden and unexplainable bruises, emotional demeanor changes, financial changes or even a rapid decline in physical or mental health.
Protecting Your Loved One
The way in which you respond to your suspicions that your loved one is being abused or neglected depends on the particular situation. Elder abuse typically appears in one of these six common forms: neglect, verbal, physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse. To draw awareness to these forms of elder abuse, the National Center on Elder Abuse outlines a list of common scenarios and actions to undertake if you suspect your parent is being abused.
The most important thing to do in these situations is to act upon your concerns. Try talking candidly to your loved one and the caregiver about your concerns and be on the lookout for the signs of elder abuse. If you are still suspicious, it is best to take advantage of available resources.
Two of the most common social services programs available to worried observers of potential elder abuse are the Adult Protective Services (APS) and the Long-Term Care Ombudsman. While the APS investigates abuse reports of adults living in the community, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman investigates reports concerning residents of long-term care facilities, such as an assisted-living facility or nursing home.
You can also contact your state’s elder abuse hotlines to receive help if you suspect your parent is being abused. Remember: it is not up to you to prove that your loved one is being abused – that is entirely up to the professionals to investigate your suspicions. Even if your suspicions are wrong, it is better to call and protect your loved one.
Obviously, if you believe your loved one is in immediate danger, call 911 right away.
Although being proactive about this issue is essential, it is just as important to realize that the effects of abuse can be felt long after the abusive caregiver is gone. There are many programs and services available to help victims of elder abuse recover, such as counseling, social service supports, mental health services and home health services.
In addition to contacting the APS or the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, another great resource is the Eldercare Locator website, which locates nearby services for elder abuse victims.
There is no denying that elder abuse is an unfortunate reality that affects millions of seniors across our country, but it is important to remember that it is all of our responsibilities to protect our seniors.