Elder Abuse In and Out of Nursing Homes a Growing Problem

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Australian Department of Health and Ageing has released a new report which shows an alarming rise in physical assaults on the elderly in nursing homes: physical assaults increased by more than 50% and sexual assaults by 36%.

Physical and sexual assaults on our elderly in nursing homes is a problem in the United States as well. Earlier this month the Chicago Tribune reported on the widespread problem within the state of Illinois.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has dated statistics on elderly abuse -- “A study conducted in 1996 found that more than 500,000 persons age 60 years and older were the victims of abuse or neglect during a one-year period.”

As baby boomers age, the sheer number of elder persons makes the risk of elderly abuse a national problem.

Elder abuse is defined as any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Laws and definitions of terms vary considerably from one state to another, but broadly defined, abuse may be:

  1. Physical Abuse - inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior, e.g. slapping, bruising, or restraining by physical or chemical means.
  2. Sexual Abuse - non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
  3. Neglect - the failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.
  4. Exploitation - the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else's benefit.
  5. Emotional Abuse - inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts, e.g. humiliating, intimidating, or threatening.
  6. Abandonment - desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
  7. Self-neglect

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– characterized as the failure of a person to perform essential, self-care tasks and that such failure threatens his/her own health or safety.

Often the elderly will suffer in silence, especially if the caregiver is the abuser. Some tell-tale signs that there could be a problem are:

  1. Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment. Be especially wary if the bruises are around the breast or genital areas, as these may indicate sexual abuse.
  2. Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
  3. Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect.
  4. Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person are also signs.
  5. If you

suspect abuse, report it. If the danger is immediate, call 911 or the police.

To report elder abuse, contact the Adult Protective Services (APS) agency in the state where the elder resides. You can find the APS reporting number for each state by:

Visiting the “Hotline” section of the National Center on Elder Abuse website

Sources
theAge.com.au
Administration on Aging (AOA)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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