Sadly, elder abuse is a common global issue, with around 1 in 6 people aged 60 and older experiencing some form of abuse in community sphysicaettings during the past year, according to the WHO. In fact, rates of elder abuse are high in institutions such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities, with 2 in 3 staff members reporting that they have committed abuse in the past year.
Alarmingly, the issue of elder abuse is only predicted to increase over the next few decades, as many countries are experiencing rapidly ageing populations. The global population of people age 60 and above will more than double, from 900 million in 2015 to about 2 billion in 2050.
With our elderly loved ones being at such a high risk for experiencing elder abuse, it is essential that we assure that they are receiving the care and treatment that they deserve. Read on to learn how you can prevent, recognise, and address elder abuse of your elderly loved one, keeping them safe, happy, and healthy during their golden years.
Encourage Your Loved Ones to Continue Their Favourite Hobbies
Oftentimes, people associate getting older with giving up the hobbies they used to love, but this is not true. Encouraging your elderly loved ones to participate in community events and hobbies not only keeps them active, but also increases their sense of independence. Keeping socially involved lowers the risk of depression or isolation, thus lowering the risk of suffering from abuse.
Be Careful When Choosing a Caregiver or Family Member for Them to Live With
It is important to be selective of who you choose to be your loved one’s caregiver or which family member they live with. If you are finding friends and family who are willing to take care of your loved one, it helps to divide the tasks among them so that all of the responsibility doesn’t fall on a single person. This prevents one person from getting overly stressed and taking out their frustration on the elderly person. It is also important to be wary of which family members or friends you allow to take care of them, as people with a history of abuse, violence, or short tempers are not good choices for caregivers. If you decide to hire a professional caregiver, make sure that they go through a thorough background check. Be sure to observe the way they interact with the senior, as well as monitor your loved one’s mental and physical health.
Keep in Constant Contact with Them
Don’t forget to check up on your loved ones and see how they’re doing. Loneliness and feeling like no one cares about them can increase their risk of depression, isolation, and withdrawal from society, making them more vulnerable to elder abuse. Talking to them, even over the phone, gives you insight into how they’re doing, as well as how they’re spending their days. This way, you are able to monitor their moods and behaviours, looking for anything out of the ordinary that could indicate there is some type of elder abuse going on.
Educate Them about Scams
Unfortunately, it is no surprise that senior citizens are one of the most targeted demographics when it comes to scams. That is why it is especially important that senior citizens are educated on common scams that target older adults, the warning signs of a scam, and how to avoid them. Teach your elderly loved ones to always be protective of their personal information and to click on strange links or trust suspicious-sounding emails, texts, numbers, or calls. If they are unsure whether or not it is a scam, advise them to always get a second opinion before taking any action or giving away any personal information. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
Encourage Them to Stay in Control of Aspects of Their Lives as Much as Possible
While some seniors may have reached a point where they do not feel comfortable having total control over their finances or managing important information, it is still important that the senior is as involved as possible in these aspects of their lives. Even if the senior doesn’t directly manage their finances, they should be educated and aware of where their money is going. It also helps to have more than one person in charge of managing an elderly person’s finances so that one person doesn’t have unlimited power over the money. When one person is in charge, it is much easier for them to get greedy and take advantage of the senior’s assets. You can avoid this problem by listing multiple people on the financial power of attorney documents.
Beyond finances, it is important that the senior tries to have some form of independence. Having some form of control in their lives boosts their confidence and prevents them from being fully dependent on others who could take advantage of them. A form of independence that dramatically affects a person’s confidence is mobility. Installing a stair lift into your home is a solution that would help your elderly loved ones gain back their independence and mobility. A stairlift for seniors, the disabled, or anyone with a mobility issue, is the ultimate solution for gaining access to the entirety of your home. Contact Acorn Stairlifts today to get a free, no-obligation stairlift chair quote and home survey.
Get Them Involved in Senior Support Groups
Senior support groups are a great way for older loved ones to get social interaction with people their age. Socialising not only helps older people connect with others, but it also provides them with an outlet to discuss their feelings and struggles, as well as receive the proper help for them. If they are in a support group, it is more likely that they will open up about any issues they are facing, including elderly abuse.
Physical Abuse Examples
Physical Abuse is committing an act of physical violence against another person that causes physical harm. Examples include hitting, pushing, shaking, slapping, restraining, etc.
Physical Abuse of Elderly Signs:
- Bruises or strange marks (burns, cuts, bleeding, handprints, rope marks on wrists or ankles)
- Broken or sprained bones
- Strained or sore muscles
- Recurring injuries
- When asked about injury, person doesn’t give a direct answer
- Afraid to be touched
- Not wanting to see a doctor for their injuries
- Not wanting to be alone with a particular person or left by themselves
Financial Abuse Examples
Financial Abuse of Elderly Signs:
- Strange ATM activity
- Suddenly not having enough money
- Unusually large withdrawals from bank accounts
- Signatures on checks don’t match the person’s signature
- Not paying bills
- Lifestyle doesn’t match the person’s financial situation
Verbal or Mental Abuse
Mental abuse is defined as any act or acts that inflict emotional or mental suffering, whether verbal or non-verbal. Examples include intimidation, shouting, insulting, humiliation, ignoring, threatening, etc.
Verbal or Mental Abuse of Elderly Signs:
- Changes in personality, mood, and behaviors
- Loss of interest in social interactions
- Unreasonably frightened by everyday situations
- Extremely eager to do everything they are asked
Neglect or Self-neglect
Neglect or Self-neglect of Elderly Signs:
- Visible weight loss
- Unusually hungry or thirsty
- Lack of medical aids such as proper medication, walkers, canes, glasses, hearing aids, etc.
- Refuses to seek medical help even when needed
- Person with dementia left without supervision
- Lack of basic hygiene or basic everyday items such as food, water, clean clothing, soap, etc.
- Alcohol bottles/ drugs laying around the house
What to Do if You Think a Loved One Has or is Suffering from Elder Abuse
If you suspect that your loved one has or is suffering from elder abuse, it is best to take action immediately. If you believe that the abuse has happened in the past and the abuser is at risk of abusing others, report the individual or institution in which the abuse took place. You should also tend to the physical and mental health of your loved one that may still be suffering from the mental and physical abuse effects from the past. This could mean taking them to the doctor or a therapist to help them work through it.
If your loved one is currently suffering from elder abuse, you should remove them from their situation immediately and report the people or organisations responsible. You should also seek help from the police, a doctor, or therapist as well. Elder abuse is a crime in South Africa. If you suspect elder abuse, contact your nearest Social Development office or at your nearest police station. Some resources that you can utilise to get support and advice are:
Halt Elder Abuse Line (HEAL)
Toll-free number: 0800 00 30 81
SASSA Western Cape Office
Address: Golden Acre, Adderley Street, Cape Town, 8001
Tel: 021 469 0200
Fax: 021 469 0260