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Elder Abuse: How to Protect Your Loved Ones

When you choose a senior housing facility for your loved one, you have a few basic expectations—one of which is that your loved one will be safe and well treated. All senior housing facilities should provide a safe and secure environment for residents. Unfortunately, cases of elder abuse do happen—even in the most luxurious senior housing facilities. Here are a few ways you can ensure this doesn’t happen to your loved one.

Know the types of abuse

Most of us think of physical abuse when we think of elder abuse. But there are other types of abuse, including emotional or psychological abuse, verbal abuse, financial abuse, exploitation, sexual abuse, abandonment, and neglect. It can happen to elders in all socio-economic classes and in all types of senior living facilities, as well as in private homes.

Senior Woman Sitting On Stairs

Elder abuse can be difficult to detect. But you can lessen the risks by keeping careful watch over your loved one and checking up on him or her frequently.

Know the risk factors

While this type of abuse can happen to seniors everywhere, those with dementia tend to have particularly high risks. Patients with dementia often can’t speak for themselves and may not remember that the abuse happened—making it easier for abusers to get away with the crime.  In addition, those who do not have involved family members may also be vulnerable—because no one is monitoring their health and behavior from outside.

Visit frequently

Talk to the staff at your loved one’s senior housing facility and get to know them. Be a regular presence at your elder care facility. If the staff knows you, knows that you visit a lot and keep frequent tabs on your loved one, he or she may be less likely to be a target of abuse.

Watch for physical signs

Seniors can be frail and fragile, and physical signs of abuse can be difficult to differentiate from injuries incurred as a result of aging. However, keep an eye out for unexplained bruises, pressure marks, puncture marks, and abrasions where your loved one wasn’t likely to have them before. Broken bones may happen as a result of a fall—or as a result of abuse.

Watch for psychological signs

Even if your loved one has dementia, there may be ways he or she can give you clues as to possible abuse. Watch carefully for changes in behavior—including withdrawal from normal activities, unusual depression, or a change in the level of alertness. In addition, watch for signs of fear—particularly of certain staff members. If one staff member makes your loved one fearful or uncomfortable, be wary.

Watch for signs of neglect

Physical and psychological abuse aren’t the only types of abuse that happen in senior housing facilities. Look out for bedsores, poor hygiene, unexplained weight loss, and medical conditions that have not been attended to. Check to be sure your loved one is being clothed appropriately and is not isolated from others.

Watch for conflict

How do the caregivers behave around your loved one? Are there any tense relationships? Do you observe a caregiver entering into arguments with other residents or with your loved one? Are the caregivers gentle with the residents even if they think no one is watching? Are they patient or terse? Caregiving may be a stressful job—but caregivers should never take those frustrations out on residents.

Elder abuse can be difficult to detect. But you can lessen the risks by keeping careful watch over your loved one and checking up on him or her frequently. Be wary of the physical and psychological signs of abuse and neglect—and stay informed about your loved one’s condition. If you suspect elder abuse, contact your local agency on aging—as well as local law enforcement.