Despite the fact that millions of people in Canada are caring for an aging loved one, elder abuse remains a hidden problem that is largely under-recognized and under-reported. In fact, it is estimated that only one in six cases or fewer are ever reported, meaning the majority of victims never get help!
According to experts, abuse typically occurs in the victim’s own home rather than a nursing home. More often than not, the abuser is someone the victim trusts and relies on for care, such as a family member, caregiver or trusted advisor.
In a culture where the senior population is on pace to nearly double by the year 2030, this is an issue that must be addressed and brought to the forefront of societal concern. As a leading voice in senior care, Caring Hearts is committed to educating professionals and community members on the identification, treatment and prevention of elder abuse.
Elder abuse is defined as any intentional or negligent action causing harm to a vulnerable adult, whether it be physical, emotional, sexual, financial, spiritual or negligent. We urge you to check up on your elderly loved ones or neighbors and let them know you care. Signs to look out for include:
- Unexplained bruises, welts, scars, broken bones or sprains.
- Broken eye glasses; torn, stained or bloody underclothing.
- Caregiver’s refusal to allow you to see the elder alone, or the caregiver exhibiting threatening, belittling or controlling behavior.
- Elder mimicking signs of dementia, including rocking, sucking or mumbling.
- Depression, withdrawal from normal activities and a sudden change in alertness.
- Significant withdrawals from bank accounts, or financial activity that could not have been done by the elder, such as ATM withdrawals when the account holder is bedridden.
- Items or cash missing from the home, or unnecessary services, goods or subscriptions.
- Unexplained changes in wills, titles, etc.
- Severe weight loss as a result of dehydration and malnourishment.
- Poor hygiene, including matted hair, dirty, elongated nails, living in filth, etc.
- Unsafe or unsanitary living conditions, such as no heat or water, mold, insect infestations, hoarding, etc.
- Noncompliance with medication prescriptions or refusal to seek medical assistance.
Watch for signs, pay attention to the environment and listen to your elders. Do they seem withdrawn, nervous, fearful, sad or anxious, especially around certain people? Does the caregiver seem agitated, stressed or confrontational? Even a few hours a week of respite care can help to reduce caregiver stress, a major contributing factor to elder abuse.
Most importantly, report suspected abuse immediately. Don’t let your fear of meddling in someone else’s business stop you from reporting your suspicions. You could be saving someone’s life!