The best way to eliminate elder abuse is to prevent it from ever happening. Yet when it does occur, the cycle can be difficult to break as the elderly are often silent in their suffering. They may be physically unable to respond to abuse or afraid of the consequences if they speak up, and our society often turns a deaf ear to such cries for help. Thus, preventing abuse and neglect becomes even more difficult but no less imperative. Below are steps the public can take to prevent elder abuse.
Unfortunately, more prevalent than financial elder abuse is elder neglect. Many studies on the subject convey that elders often feel that they live in the shadows whether at home or at a medical institution. Often elder neglect is hard to identify. Such neglect can be the active or passive failure to provide basic physical, medical, mental and emotional needs.
How can a family member, friend or neighbor identify such neglect? After all, how can you tell that someone is threatening someone else unless you see it happen? Without seeing it happen, how can you tell that someone is inflicting anguish on an elder through verbal or nonverbal acts, e.g. humiliating, intimidating or threatening?
• Not attending to the elder; ignoring moans, calls for help or hospital call bells.
• Ignoring the elder’s need for affection.
• Failure to provide necessary psychological care to the senior, such as therapy or medications for depression.
• Isolation of the elder from the outer world, including restriction of phone calls, mail, visitors and outings.
• Lack of assistance to do interesting activities, such as watching preferred television programs or going to events.
• Plan their financial future with trusted family members, thus helping to eliminate unwanted theft and fraud.
• Avoid social isolation which can make them vulnerable to abuse.
• Speak their mind if they think they are not receiving proper care, either in a facility or at home.
• Know who they can contact if they think they have been abused.
Family members can:
• Pay attention to warning signs of possible abuse.
• Review bank accounts for irregular activity.
• Call and visit frequently.
Make sure the elder person feels comfortable enough to contact you in case of an emergency.
• Make certain the elder is eating and sleeping properly and is properly medicated.
• Seek counseling or spiritual guidance for signs of depression, stress or burnout.
• Know local resources for elder abuse, and contact them ahead of an abuse situation to become familiar with their procedures for reporting an abuse situation.
• Find support groups to help with the stress and to assist with education of other caregivers.
The prevention of elder abuse can often be boiled down to a lack of information. Educate yourself, your family and learn to recognize the subtle signs of neglect or abuse. A caregiver’s job is to make the lives for those more pleasant. Removing abuse from the equation would go a long way in meeting that goal.
All-in-all, communicating with our elders is the solution to almost all potential issues, mental or physical. Calling Mom, Dad, Auntie and Uncle to say “hello” and “I love you” not only lets our loved ones know they are loved, but it reminds them that they are not forgotten. It opens the door for communicating their needs and thoughts.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.