Guarding Against Elder Abuse is Everyoneís Duty
By Jean Donahue
When I was taking
care of Mom and Dad, there was this constant, unspoken worry that someone
would mistreat them. I just couldnít be there 24 hours a day to take
care of them. I thought I would be able to tell if something happened
while I was gone, but I have since found that I didnít know enough to
question some of the abuses that happen to older people.
elder abuse is very common. Please do what you need to do to protect your
loved one from any type of abuse. If you suspect anything at all, call
your state abuse hotline IMMEDIATELY. They will help you determine if
there is actually abuse and what other steps you should take.
B. in Connecticut emailed me about her father feeling he needed to give
money to a woman, when he really didnít have it to give Ė and she
didnít deserve it. Maureen knew the woman was using her father, but
didnít fully realize that in doing so, she was actually abusing her
father, who feared what would happen if he didnít give her money. This
is her reply after she contacted the elder abuse hotline in Connecticut.
Friends, there is help!
you SO much for your reply! Thank you for the link to the CT Elder Abuse
Hotline. I called there today and they referred me to "Protective
Services for the Elderly" out of Danbury. They told me they will be
able to send out a social worker and investigate this girl and the
situation with my Dad.... Since Dad is scared to press charges (with all
the new information we have, the police department said today they may be
able to get an arrest warrant if he files a complaint), they said there
still may be a way to file charges or at least intimidate the girl from
contacting my Dad.... He is definitely afraid of her as he asked me today
to buy him mace!
cannot tell you how many searches I made before I found your website.
There should be an easy way to find information as valuable as your column
weíre all certainly trying here at caregivershome.com, Maureen. And
thanks for writing!
what, exactly, is abuse, anyway? Abuse is when your loved one is being
mistreated, either intentionally or unintentionally through neglect. The
elderly may be unaware of the abuse or too afraid to say anything. In the
case of Maureenís father, someone was intimidating him, so he felt it
necessary to give her money even when there was no reason for him to do
so. This abuse is harassment, or implied threat. Letís look at all the
ways people abuse the frail elderly and what you should watch for.
donít discount your loved oneís story of being abused just because you
believe they arenít always aware of their surroundings. Check it out.
Also, if you notice or question anything that is unusual, check it out
further. That warning may be the only sign you will see. At the end of
this column, I list the elder abuse hotline information you should contact
as your first line of defense. They will guide you to other places for
the most obvious form of abuse we hear about. It causes pain and/or injury
to another person. It may involve hitting that person, pushing them,
force-feeding them beyond their capacity to eat, withholding food,
improper use of physical restraints or medications, withholding medical
care, forced sexual activity, and anything else the twisted human mind can
you should watch for: bruises and welts anywhere on the body, broken
bones, sprains, dislocations, open wounds, untreated injuries in various
stages of healing, bed sores that donít heal, internal
injuries/bleeding, broken glasses or frames, signs of being punished or
restrained, unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding, stained or bloody
underclothing, lab reports of medication overdose or underdose, your loved
oneís sudden change in behavior, the professional caregiver's refusal to
allow visitors to see your loved one alone, your loved oneís report of
(or psychological) abuse
causes mental trauma. Threats, humiliation, ridicule, putting down, being
overly critical, insults, destroying something important to the elderly,
isolating the person from family, friends and other people in general Ė
these all are forms of emotional abuse.
you should watch for: being emotionally upset or agitated, being extremely
withdrawn, non-communicative or non-responsive, unusual behavior usually
attributed to dementia (e.g., sucking, biting, rocking), and an elder's
report of being verbally or emotionally mistreated.
(like Maureenís father) is the unauthorized use of the elderlyís
money, assets or property. It occurs when someone coerces the elderly to
give them money and/or property or access to their credit cards or their
checking account. It also occurs when someone coerces the elderly to
change their will, give power of attorney under duress, to buy something
they donít want or need and many other ways to get their money.
you should watch for: sudden changes in their bank account or banking
practices, unexplained withdrawal of large sums of money by a person
accompanying the elder, unusual ATM card withdrawals, abrupt changes in a
will or other financial documents, unexplained disappearance of funds or
valuable possessions, substandard care being provided, unpaid bills,
discovery of an elder's signature being forged for financial transactions
or for the titles to his/her possessions, sudden appearance of previously
uninvolved relatives claiming their rights to an elder's affairs and
possessions, unexplained sudden transfer of assets to a family member or
someone outside the family, the provision of services that are not
necessary; and an elder's report of financial abuse.
occurs when the elderlyís basic needs are not provided. It can be
intentional or unintentional, but the result is the same. Neglect can
include physical, emotional and financial abuse. When the elderly
doesnít have glasses to see, dentures to help them eat, doesnít go to
a doctor when they should, arenít clean, are left alone most of the
time, or donít have something else they need, they are being neglected.
If an elderly person is living alone, they may not realize they are not
taking care of themselves very well Ė thatís self-neglect, a different
but still serious problem.
you should watch for: dehydration, malnutrition, untreated bed sores, poor
personal hygiene, unattended or untreated health problems, hazardous or
unsafe living condition/arrangements; unsanitary and unclean living
conditions, an elder's report of being mistreated.
you think there is a possibility of abuse with your loved one, check it
out immediately. Donít hesitate. Donít dismiss it as unlikely. You can
do something about it. It can literally be a matter of life and death.