Spotting elderly abuse

Anyone who messes with my Mom is going to have to go through us to get to her.
Anyone who messes with my Mom is going to have to go through us to get to her. | Source

Elderly abuse - learn to spot it

As the primary caregiver for my darling 95 year old Mom, Gertie, the last thing in the world I could consider doing is committing elderly abuse. I consider abusing the elderly every bit as horrible as child abuse or hurting an animal - there's never a reason to abuse any of those demographics. In fact, before I draw fire, let me state that I'm against any kind of abuse. Ever.

But, elderly abuse does happen and it happens fairly frequently. The National Center for Elder Abuse states that better 2 and 10% of all elderly are abused, neglected or exploited. Considering that this equates to between 1 and 2 million elderly adults, that's a lot. Note: there are no hard fast studies or collection methods to find this data. This is just the best guess on numbers for elderly abuse.

Types of elderly abuse

Elderly abuse is not just about physical abuse; there are many different forms that abuse can take. The below are some of the more common types of elderly abuse:

  • Physical abuse. This type of elderly abuse is pretty self-explanatory.
  • Sexual abuse. Unwanted touching, forced sexual contact, forced nudity or even having sexually explicit photos taken (yes, it really does happen. Is that sick or what?).
  • Financial abuse. Any elderly person who is coerced into signing checks or being forced to give money to individuals is being financially abused.
  • Neglect. If you have a caregiver, this is a biggie. Neglect includes leaving the elderly hungry, cold or wet or simply not taking care of the elderly patient.
  • Emotional abuse. An elderly person who is being emotionally abused may show no outward signs of abuse but you might see a change in your elderly loved one's personality.

For the purpose of this Hubpages article, I'll focus on physical abuse in the elderly as it's the most common of the abuse types.

My parents were happy and healthy all their lives.
My parents were happy and healthy all their lives. | Source
Ok, maybe I should have shooed the butterfly off his head but it's still not abuse
Ok, maybe I should have shooed the butterfly off his head but it's still not abuse | Source
No one better ever touch my Mama!
No one better ever touch my Mama! | Source

Identifying physical abuse in the elderly

My Mom lives with me in my home but that doesn't mean that I don't still watch for elderly abuse, especially when I had a home care agency sending in different caregivers every week. I hated leaving my mother in the hands of people I didn't know but, at that time, I couldn't stay home from work so hiring caregivers was a necessary evil. And, there was some evil about it too.

Every night when I put Mom to bed, I'd slyly (?) question her about her day. I'd ask her if she was happy with the <insert name of the caregiver>, what they did during the day, if there were any problems. I'd look at her arms and question her about new aches and pains.

One time, I called from work during the day to check in and Mom was crying - the caregiver was yelling at her for something my Mom couldn't help. That's the day I drove home steaming from work, walked in the door, booted out the caregiver, and quit my job. Done, finis, over. From that day forward, I was the caregiver du jour and at night too but, I still needed help.

If your loved one is living in a nursing home, it's even more important that you check for signs of physical abuse in your elderly loved one. Establishing a relationship with a trustworthy nurse or attendant is a great way to get additional information about your elderly loved one.

Elder abuse comes in many forms. The below are some of the more common symptoms of physical elderly abuse forms you should be aware of:

  • Unexplained bruises. My Mom bruises very easily, and I've actually inflicted a few bruises just by raising her legs onto the ottoman. But, if you see a bruised area that just doesn't make sense, such as on the top of the thighs or on the back, ask questions.
  • Burns. Especially if there are caregivers in the house, there's no reason for your elderly loved one to be near an open flame. If you see a burn, that's a pretty sure sign of elderly abuse.
  • New aches and pains or stiffness. Forcing an elderly person to remain in a chair all day can be a form of elderly abuse. If this is the case, your elderly loved one might be unusually stiff upon standing as it doesn't take long for muscles to seize up in the elderly.

In short, question anything that doesn't seem right to you. Don't worry about embarrassing others - your job as overseer or caregiver is to be an advocate for those who can no longer speak for themselves.

Checking in on your elderly loved one

I have a full-time caregiver living with us at this point and we love her dearly. I have no qualms about leaving Mom in Carina's wonderful care but, if you're not quite so sure, nanny cams might be just right for you.

The newest of nanny cams are teeny weeny cameras that you will record actions on a motion detection basis so you won't miss a thing. Hide the littlest of the cameras in picture frames, in potted plants or in a box on the top of a piece of furniture. If you have internet access, you can even check in in real time. Now, that's a great way to keep your eye on the situation for yourself.

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