Op-Ed: The quiet epidemic of elder abuse by caregivers

Posted Jun 27, 2013 by Cynthia Trowbridge
When we think of abuse we think of child abuse and domestic abuse usually abuse of women. There is another abuse that is not thought of or talked about very often. That is the abuse of the elderly.
Elderly person with his head in his hands
Elderly person with his head in his hands
In the news we often see reports on domestic abuse and child abuse. What is not written about as often is the abuse of the elderly. reports that there are many seniors around the world who are being abused often by their caregivers.
The report states in the United States alone there are more than half a million reports to authorities each year of abuse against senior citizens and millions of cases go unreported. reports the abuse of the elderly affects four percent of senior citizens every year. They report that according to the experts less than one in 14 cases of elder abuse is reported to law enforcement authorities.
Most elder abuse happens where the senior lives. It happens in the senior's home or another home where the person lives and most often is cared for by their own adult children or other members of their family such as grandchildren or their spouses or partners.
Ways the elderly are abused:
Physical abuse reports Special Assistant County Attorney Robert C. Brown from Arizona, who is recognized as a national expert on the subject of elder abuse said, "Physical abuse is the use of physical force which may result in bodily injury, physical pain or impairment." He stated the physical abuse may include such acts as striking, hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, shaking, slapping, kicking, pinching and burning. The physical abuse can also be by giving drugs to the person, restraining or confining them.
Emotional or psychological abuse
This is treating or talking to the senior in ways that cause emotional pain or distress.
This takes place by intimidating the senior by yelling at them, threatening, humiliating or ridiculing them, as well as blaming them for things they aren't responsible for.
It also includes ignoring or isolating the elderly person from friends and family.
Sexual abuse
This includes physical sex acts forced on the elderly person but also includes forcing the senior to view pornographic material, forcing the person to watch sex acts, or to force the person to undress while being watched.
Financial abuse
This is the use of the senior's property or money without their authorisation. Not only does this include a caregiver, it includes an outside scam artist.
This includes a caregiver who will misuse the senior's checks, credit cards, steal cash, or household goods.
Rackets and scams used by phony charities, investment fraud or an announcement of a prize that has been won but money must be paid first.
Another form of financial abuse was covered by Arthur Weinreb in this Digital Journal report.
The abuse of neglect or abandonment by caregivers
Brown states, "Neglect is the failure of a person in charge of the care of an elder to adequately perform his or her obligations. This may include failure to provide medicines, hygiene, food or personal safety."
More than half of all elder abuse cases are neglect of the elderly person. Neglect of the senior can include bedsores or skin rashes not being cared for. Also injuries and medical issues not being treated. Malnutrition, poor hygiene or the senior going hungry as well not having clean clothes or bedding.
There are laws against abuse to protect the elderly who often cannot help themselves. If you suspect an elderly person is being abused, contact the authorities.