June 15th is elder abuse awareness day and elder abuse is very real in Maine, so raising awareness is one avenue to curbing it’s prevalence. I would like to talk about what elder abuse is, how to recognize the signs of elder abuse and what you can do if you think an elderly individual is being abused. Elder abuse can take many forms such as physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. The definition of elder abuse is the intentional harm or negligence, toward an elderly person. Elder abuse tends to take place where the senior lives, most likely in the home, where unfortunately abusers are apt to be adult children or other family members such as grandchildren or spouses or partners of elders. As unpleasant as this is, the fact is tens of thousands of seniors across the United States are being abused or harmed in some substantial way, often by the people directly responsible for their care.
If you suspect that an elderly person is at risk from neglectful or overwhelmed caregiver or getting preyed upon financially, it’s important to recognize the warning signs. As I stated earlier elder abuse can take many forms but there are general signs of abuse to be aware of and these signs include:
- Changes in personality or behavior
- Unusual weight loss and untreated physical problems
- Frequent argument or tension between the caregiver and the elderly person.
- Unexplained sign of injury such as bruises, welts, broken bones or sprains.
- Threatening, belittling or controlling caregiver behavior that you witness.
- Unexplained venereal disease or genital or anal bleeding
- Significant money withdrawals from the elderly individuals accounts, cash missing or suspicious changes in wills or POA’s.
These are just some of many warning signs to recognize elder abuse. We can also help prevent elder abuse by just doing three things.
- Listening to seniors and their caregivers
- Intervening when you suspect elder abuse
- Educating others about how to recognize and report elder abuse.
It has been my experience as a home care nurse that the strongest indicator of elder abuse is the feeling that something just isn’t right- Maine-ly Elder Care educates our staff to listen to those feelings and to be more observant of the signs of abuse when those unsettling feelings are present. This has always been my guide as a nurse.
The next step is to report abuse, it’s important to stand up for an older adult in need and we can report elder abuse to Adult Protective Services in Maine, which is a division of the office of elder services, the office of elder services in Maine protects incapacitated and dependent adults. Anybody can report abuse by going online at www.maine.gov or calling 1-800-963-9490. The important thing to remember about elder abuse is to recognize it, prevent it, and report it.
~Denise RN & CEO