It can be hard to fathom that anyone would deliberately harm an elderly person however, elder abuse is more common than you might think.
What is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse takes on many forms and does not necessarily mean physically. Elder abuse is an action by someone in a relationship of trust that results in harm or distress to an older person. The lack of taking action by a person in a relationship of trust is also considered elder abuse.
Elder abuse has no borders and can happen anywhere including care home facilities, at home and in the general public.
Elder abuse comes in two main forms:
Active Abuse: is the failure of a caregiver or another in a position of power who intentionally takes action or purposely does not take action for the benefit of themselves.
Passive Abuse: is the failure of a caregiver or another to full-fill their caregiving responsibilities.
Whether active or passive both forms of abuse affect the daily lives of seniors in a negative way. There are no excuses for either, both have legal implications and neither is better or worse.
Some of the most recognized types of elder abuse include:
Sexual & Physical
Regardless of type, elder abuse can have devastating consequences, including serious physical injuries, emotional suffering, financial loss and even death. Often where there is abuse, there is more than one type of abuse happening.
Some potential signs
Financial abuse limits an older person's resources, choices and options by using money or property without permission or in a fraudulent manner.
Some examples are:
A family member or significant other who repeatedly pressures an elderly person for money or borrows money, but never pays it back.
A family member who sells a parent's house or other property and then uses the money for their own benefit.
Adult children who use a parent's pension and then makes the parent ask them for money
Any person who misuses a power of attorney
A person who forces or tricks a senior into signing or changing documents such as wills or contracts.
Physical or Sexual Abuse
Physical abuse can include but not be limited to unnecessary touching that makes someone feel uncomfortable, unnecessary touching to someone who is not able to communicate what is making them feel uncomfortable, striking, hitting, pushing, shaking, burning, shoving, inappropriate physical or chemical restraints and harm created by over or under medicating.
Abandonment or Neglect
The inability or purposely neglecting to provide basic or personal care needs to an elderly person by a person who is in a position of trust.
Basic necessities include:
Adequate safety precautions
Withholding medical services or treatments
While many might be able to spot neglect or abuse of their loved ones, it might not be so easy when it comes to self-neglect. Self-neglect can be hard to spot and when they do we can feel powerless. It is important to keep in mind that seniors who behave this way are sometimes not in complete control of their actions, especially if they are experiencing cognitive difficulties and decline. In fact, self-neglect is how "some" caregivers realize that something may be wrong with their loved one's cognitive health. Self-neglect happens when seniors do not complete their daily activities of daily living on their own or resist assistance to complete their daily needs.
Some signs of self-neglect are:
Not taking medications
Unkept appearance (dirty clothing)
Lack of hygiene or bathing
Not keeping medical appointments
Lack of social contact
Living in un-fit living conditions: cleanliness and safety in particular.
If you feel that your loved one is experiencing cognitive difficulties and decline, seeking outside help is highly advised. Seek help from a medical professional, community resources or consider a professional caregiver.
What should I do if I suspect elder abuse?
Anytime you feel that someone is in immediate danger call 911.
Seniors Abuse and Information Line (SAIL), The Seniors Abuse and Information Line (SAIL) is a safe, confidential place for older adults and those who care about them to talk to someone about situations where they feel they are being abused or mistreated or to receive information about elder abuse prevention. Call toll-free from Victoria or anywhere in BC 1-866-437-1940.
If someone is abusing or neglecting you or someone you know, you can call VictimLink BC. VictimLink BC is a confidential telephone service available across B.C. 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Toll-free: 1-800-563-0808
More resources can be found by visiting the Government of BC website.
Did you know that having respite care for your loved one can reduce overwhelming any family caregiver? Stress is a major contributor to passive or unintentional abuse. Having regular respite care allows you to take a break and be a better caregiver for your loved one. Respite care also can help your loved one live a longer and happier life. For more information feel free to contact Pacific Coast Health Services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - 365 days a year to book a free in-home healthcare assessment in Victoria and Nanaimo. Call (250) 389-0202 or Email email@example.com.