Protecting Your Family Member from Elder Abuse
Elder abuse is a growing problem in the United States, with estimates of more than five million cases of abuse reported each year. It’s important to be aware of the realities of elder abuse and how it can affect your loved one, as well as what you can do to protect them.
The Reality of Elder Abuse
The National Center on Elder Abuse defines elder abuse as “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.” It’s heartbreaking to think that such vulnerable individuals can be taken advantage of, but unfortunately it happens far too often. The most common forms of elder abuse are physical, emotional/psychological, financial exploitation, and neglect. Emotional/psychological abuse may include verbal insults, threats or humiliation; physical abuse includes hitting, kicking or restraining; and financial exploitation can range from theft to fraud. Neglect occurs when the caretaker fails to provide for the basic needs of an elderly person such as food, shelter, hygiene and medical care.
Protecting Your Loved One
If you are concerned that your family member may become a victim of elder abuse, there are several steps you can take to protect them. Start by researching their situation and understanding the risks they may face based on their living situation and level of care they receive. Talk openly with your family member about any safety concerns you have and make sure they understand how to report potential signs of abuse if they experience it themselves or observe it in another person. Be sure to also research local laws and regulations for long-term care facilities so that you know what rights your family member has when residing in one. Additionally, ask questions about their caregivers – who is providing direct services? Are they certified? Do they have references? These are all important factors when making decisions about where your loved one will live and receive care. Finally, make sure all personal information is kept secure at home – keep records out-of-sight in locked files or cabinets so that identity theft does not occur.
Elder abuse is an unfortunate reality that millions face every year in the United States—but it doesn’t have to be this way! By taking proactive steps like researching potential risks and talking openly with your family member about potential signs of elder abuse, you can help protect them from becoming yet another statistic in this heartbreaking trend. It’s up to us all—family members included—to stand up against this injustice!