It can be difficult to realize that as our family members age, they can become vulnerable to different types of abuse – especially when those are the individuals we’ve looked up to our entire lives. There are a number of factors that increase a person’s risk for abuse – especially when they live in a long-term care facility like a nursing home. Unfortunately, it’s a rare occurrence for an abused senior to report what’s been done to them.
It’s known that approximately one in ten Americans over the age of 60 has experienced some form of abuse; however, it’s likely that only one in 14 cases are reported to the proper authorities. It’s also likely that those numbers are low estimations. Understanding what factors put an elder at risk can aid in the prevention of abuse.
Social isolation is the low quality or quantity of contact with others. There are often few instances of social contact, few social roles, and mutually-rewarding relationships may be absent. Elders who are socially isolated are at a greater risk of being abused physically and emotionally. They may experience shame and guilt because of what they’ve been subjected to, which can contribute to a lack of reporting.
When a senior in a nursing home is intentionally isolated, they are likely to become despondent and disinterested in their previous hobbies or activities. Abusive employees may intentionally isolate the resident in hopes that the abuse will be kept a secret because the resident won’t have to chance to speak with other residents or family member who could help them. Long-term isolation can lead to issues with depression, which can seriously impact both the emotional and mental states.
In order to combat issues of social isolation, regularly check on your loved one. Consider scheduling time every week or multiple times a week to visit them. If you notice they are acting differently, mention your concerns. If you see the staff members are trying to prevent you from seeing your loved one, this is a major red flag. It’s important to get to the bottom of what is going on and ensure your loved one is being treated properly.
Elders with cognitive impairments like dementia are at a significantly greater risk of abuse because of their impaired memory, communication skills, and judgment. A significant number of individuals with mental impairments experience various forms of abuse because negligent individuals take advantage of these seniors knowing full well they may be incapable of reporting the abuse, not be believed, or they may not be aware the abuse is happening.
Caregivers may also become frustrated because of a resident’s psychological aggression or physical assault behaviors – which can develop as the condition progresses. To increase their power over the situation, they may result to violence themselves.
As with preventing social isolation, communication and regular visits are crucial if your loved one has a cognitive impairment. While it may be difficult to spend time with your loved one when they’re dealing with this type of condition, you’ll be able to ensure they are being treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
Interpersonal violence, also referred to as domestic violence, occurs at higher rates among adults with disabilities. This occurs when a person uses power and control to inflict harm on an older adult with whom they have a relationship. The harm can be physical, emotional, sexual, or financial. Typical abusers include spouses, former spouses, partners, adult children, extended family, and in-home caregivers.
Typical abusive tactics include threats, manipulation, intimidation, and violence. This is often the least reported elder abuse because it’s likely a person has been experiencing the behavior for years. Someone who has become accustomed to being abused is less likely to come forward and inform someone of their situation.
Suspecting your loved one is being abused by another family member or someone else you know can be an upsetting and difficult situation; however, it’s important to remember that your loved one could be in danger and it’s best to remove them from that situation and determine what has happened.
If you suspect or know your loved one is being abused, you can take legal action on their behalf. It’s important to speak with your loved one and attempt to get them to tell you what they’ve been through, but remember that it may be a difficult conversation for them. If you’re ready to hold the negligent party responsible for your loved one’s pain and suffering, schedule a free consultation with us.