Safety at Home

Spotting Abuse and Neglect with a Loved One

Spotting Abuse and Neglect with a Loved One
Abuse of an elderly loved one can include physical, emotional, sexual, and financial harm and manipulation. In the United States alone, there are more than half a million reports annually of elder abuse, and it goes without saying that many more must go unreported.

As your loved one becomes more dependent, they are unfortunately in a more vulnerable state to be manipulated or taken advantage of. Elder abuse typically happens right where the senior lives, but can also happen in institutional settings such as long-term care facilities.

You may start becoming aware of signs that your loved one’s caregiver is neglectful or too overwhelmed with their role. It is important to speak up, investigate, and not ignore this feeling. Here are some ways to recognize the signs of elder abuse, understand what is at risk, as well as how to prevent and report the problem.

Signs of Physical Abuse

Unexplained signs of injury: bruises, welts, or scars
Broken and dislocated bones
Drug overdose, or failure to take appropriate medication on a regular schedule
Broken belongings such as eyeglasses
Caregiver’s refusal to allow you to see the loved one alone

Signs of Emotional Abuse

Yelling or otherwise threatening language
Humiliation, ridicule, or ignoring of the patient
Isolation of the patient from others

Signs of Neglect

Unusual weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration
Unsanitary living conditions
Desertion of the patient in a public place
Unsafe living conditions

Signs of Financial Exploitation

Unexplained withdrawals from the patient’s account
Abrupt changes in the patient’s financial situation
Money or items missing from the patient
Changes in wills, titles, or other legal rights
Addition of names to the patient’s signature card
Unexplained services, goods, or subscriptions

Signs of Healthcare Fraud

Duplicate billings for the same medical service or device
Evidence of over or under-medication
Poor care facility conditions such as insufficient staff or overcrowding

Preventing Abuse and Neglect

If you as a caregiver are feeling overwhelmed and are at risk of hurting or neglecting your patient, there are resources available to you. Maybe you are feeling increasing tension between you and the patient, or are simply feeling more disconnected and apathetic than you would like.

If so, you should immediately take steps in relieving stress and burnout. Regular exercise, sleep, and a healthy diet all help you cope. Do not be afraid to seek out support from family members or a group dedicated to those in your situation. If you are aware of signs of elder neglect or abuse, act on them right away. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Reporting Elder Abuse

When reporting elder abuse, it is important that you do not confront the abuser yourself. You may be putting your loved one in danger by acknowledging tensions with your primary caregiver.

If your loved one is at risk of self-neglect, offer to connect them with medical services or tour assisted living facilities. When you make these offers, remember to acknowledge their agency and do not make them feel as if a decision is being forced upon them. Instead, give them the option to transition when they personally feel at terms with their situation.

Ultimately, it is important to plan ahead for the next step after addressing the potential neglect or abuse of an elder. Ask yourself what their next plan of action will be for receiving care and if their living conditions will be adequate. This will prevent the situation from being further exacerbated.

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