As a society, we are becoming more aware of the problem of elder abuse. Much of the mistreatment of our seniors comes from friends or family, caregivers, or people in a position of trust, such as financial, legal, or spiritual advisors. If you have an aging loved one, you must become adept at recognizing the signs of senior relational abuse.
Senior relational abuse is when an elderly person experiences abuse from someone with a relationship with him, as opposed to from a stranger. The abuse can come in many forms, including:
- Neglect or abandonment
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, elder abuse is on the rise, with about ten percent of seniors reporting having been the victims of abuse. With so many of our aging population experiencing abuse, we should all know how to detect when a senior might be suffering abuse.
Stanford University has developed guidelines for members of the medical community to use to spot symptoms of elder abuse when screening patients. The guidelines are useful for anyone who interacts with seniors. Stanford lists these behaviors as possible indications that a senior is suffering abuse:
- The senior is withdrawn, resigned, or depressed
- She is confused, disoriented, or stares vacantly
- He is agitated, anxious, angry, or fearful
- She is exhibiting out-of-the-ordinary behavior, like hitting or biting
- He is no longer taking care of his daily self-care
- She has any other sudden change in behavior
Isolation and Control
When a caregiver is abusing a senior, he does not want her to report him to others. He may isolate her from her friends and family. He may try to keep her from receiving information or participating in activities. He may try to prevent the medical professional from seeing the senior, without him being present. The senior may not make her own decisions about such things as where and how she lives, healthcare choices, financial matters, or personal issues.
Reluctance by the Senior
If a senior does not want to talk with the caregiver in the room, it may indicate that he fears repercussions from an abusive caregiver. When the elderly person appears to be apprehensive about being alone with the caregiver, there may be an unhealthy relationship.
An abusive caregiver may give explanations about how incidents happened that conflict with the senior’s reporting. Sometimes this is due to memory or cognitive issues of the older person, but other times it can be a red flag. Be concerned when a caregiver tries to jump in and answer questions addressed to the senior, instead of letting him answer for himself.
If a caregiver seems disinterested in the senior’s welfare, verbally abusive or angry with the elderly person, there may be an abusive situation. When a caregiver depends financially on the senior, especially if the caregiver has a history of substance abuse, violence, or mental illness, elder abuse is more likely to be present.
The laws in your state might be different, so talk with an elder law attorney in your area.
Stanford Medicine. “Signs and Symptoms of Abuse.” (accessed November 8, 2017) https://elderabuse.stanford.edu/screening/signs.html
American Psychological Association. “What is Elder Abuse?” (accessed November 8, 2017) https://www.apa.org/pi/prevent-violence/resources/elder-abuse.aspx
National Center on Elder Abuse. “Who are the Perpetrators?” (accessed November 8, 2017) https://ncea.acl.gov/whatwedo/research/statistics.html#perpetrators