Visitors Can Help Uncover Elder Abuse

Portrait of Worried Senior Couple

This time of year, many groups launch campaigns to encourage the public to visit nursing homes. We think it’s a great idea, but not just during the holidays. Nursing home residents benefit from regular visits all year long – and you may too.

Did you know?

  • 50% of people living in long term care facilities have no family
  • 60% get no visitors
  • As many as five million seniors are abused or neglected each year in the United States
  • One study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse ever comes to the attention of authorities*

While visits cannot guarantee nursing home residents will not be abused or neglected, regular visitors may notice important signs of abuse.

Signs of elder abuse

Elder abuse can affect men and women of all ethnic backgrounds, regardless of social status.  Whether they live in their own home or reside in a long-term facility, seniors may be victims of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. They may also suffer from neglect, abandonment, or even financial exploitation.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, one sign does not necessarily mean abuse or neglect is occurring, but watch for indicators that there could be a problem, such as:

  • Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
  • Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation.
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect.
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses or caregivers are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person are also signs.

It is important to remain alert. The suffering is often in silence. If you notice changes in personality, behavior, or physical condition, you should start to question what is going on.

For more information, visit the National Center on Elder Abuse website or contact your local Long-Term Care Ombudsman.

 

*National Research Council. (2003) Elder mistreatment: Abuse, neglect and exploitation in an aging America. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

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