The abuse of seniors is a grave matter, without a doubt. Every year more than 5 million United States citizens suffer from various types of elder abuse. The main issue with this type of violence is that in most cases it goes undetected and unreported. This needs to change, since in cases of elder abuse, death is also one of the outcomes. Because of all this, it is essential to recognize and report elder abuse as a grave consequence to be avoided, and the continued exploitation of our elderly must stop.
What is Elder Abuse?
There are different types of elder abuse, but they usually fall into three large groups: physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Other subgroups include financial exploitation, neglect, and abandonment. It is hard to believe, but in more than 50% of elderly maltreatment cases, the perpetrator is a spouse, child, or another family member. This is the primary reason why only 7% of all senior abuse cases get reported. But on the bright side, the number of reported cases increases every year. People all around the country are becoming aware of what our seniors are going through. Examples of elder abuse are getting reported more and more.
The Elder Justice Act
The Elder Justice Act was signed in 2010 as a countermeasure to the high rates of elder abuse. This act was the first of its kind. It was followed by the founding of the Adult Protective Services Association and elder abuse forensic centers for law enforcement. It also prompted the creation of a national database for caregivers where their background check data are kept together with a thorough list of all elder abuse crimes reported to law enforcement.
All of the above meant a massive step in the right direction. But it still requires all of us to be more aware of what elder abuse really is. In some cases, senior abuse can be prevented by a simple conversation and nothing more.
Warning Signs of Elder Abuse
The two factors that go together with elder abuse more than any others are mental impairment and isolation. If a senior is mentally impaired, he immediately belongs to the group of seniors who are vulnerable to abuse and neglect. For the elderly with dementia, this is a sad reality. People with dementia are the group which suffers the most damage. This is because they are less likely to report neglect or abuse due to their state. Even if they do, their claims often get rejected as they are treated as delusions that are a part of their condition.
All in all, those who can’t defend themselves are always those who suffer the most. With things put like this, it is evident why they need to change at a rapid rate.
Because of this, even if it’s not your loved one in question, you need to pay attention to abuse in your surroundings. There are many warning signs that you can look for. Some of the most obvious include bedsores, burns, bruises, abrasions, poor hygiene, and social withdrawal. In some cases, when you notice that someone’s financial situation has changed, especially if they live on a fixed income, it can be a sign of abuse.
Even if some of these signs sometimes don’t have anything to do with abuse, they never should be ignored.
How to Report Elder Abuse
Even if this is not something that is easy to do, it needs to be done immediately. After you notice something wrong, you need to react quickly. If it is a matter of moments after you see something, the best route to take would be to call 911. If it is constant mistreatment, you can address your long-term care ombudsman, Adult Protective Services, or similar local authorities.
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