As our loved ones age, it’s normal to worry about them – Is Mom OK living at home by herself? When should Dad stop driving? Are my grandparents getting the care they need? Something that we don’t often think to worry about is whether or not an older loved one has been the victim of abuse.
It is difficult to imagine that anyone would harm a person who has been entrusted to his or her care. The sad fact is, though, elder abuse does occur at alarming rates each year. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, recent studies estimate that up to 7.6–10 percent of the elderly population in the U.S. have suffered abuse.
Oftentimes, the warning signs of senior abuse or mistreatment may go unnoticed; they may appear to be symptoms of dementia or signs of the person’s frailty — or caregivers may explain them to you that way. However, there are some key signs to watch for in order to uncover and stop elder abuse.
In general if you witness frequent arguments between the caregiver and the senior or a change in your loved one’s behavior – acting withdrawn, afraid, etc. – these are often signs that abuse is taking place.
If you are still unsure whether or not your loved one is a victim of abuse, look for the following physical and behavioral signs.
Signs of Physical Abuse
- Unexplained bruises, burns, welts, or scars
- Broken bones or sprains
- Broken eyeglasses
- Signs of restraint, such as bruises or marks on the wrists
- Caregiver’s refusal to allow you to see the elder alone
- Odd explanations for injuries, such as, “She ran into a door.”
Signs of Emotional and/or Verbal Abuse
- Unusual behavior that mimics dementia symptoms, such as biting or rocking
- Nervous or fearful behavior, especially around the caregiver
- Witnessing the caregiver yell at, threaten, or belittle the older adult
- Forced isolation by the caregiver
Signs of Neglect
- Unexplained weight loss
- Untreated physical problems, such as bed sores
- Unkempt appearance
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Dirty clothes
- Unsafe living conditions (no heat or running water)
Signs of Financial Abuse
- Bills go unpaid
- Unaccounted for expenses or money disappearing from bank account
- Unusual purchases that your loved one didn’t used to make
- Increased use of credit cards
- More frequent cash withdrawals
- Adding the caregiver or someone new to bank accounts or credit cards
Preventing Elder Abuse
The good news is that elder abuse is preventable. Staying in regular contact with your older loved one, either via telephone or routine visits, can help you spot any activity that may be suspect. Caregiving for a loved one can be very stressful, and can lead to caregiver burnout. If you or another family member is caring for an older loved one, remember to take time off to rest and recharge. Home care agencies, like Nightingale Home Care of Phoenix, can provide respite care services to ensure you get the breaks you need in order to be the best caregiver you can be.
Additionally, working with Nightingale can help provide families with peace of mind, as we require that all our caregivers undergo thorough background checks and regular supervision to ensure they provide stellar care and treat each of our clients like family.
If you would like more information about how to prevent elder abuse or if you are searching for home care services in the Phoenix area, contact Nightingale Home Care today.
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