No one likes to think about this issue. Most of us cannot imagine physically hurting a loved one. But there are more types of abuse other than just the physical. Emotional and financial abuse of elders are also on the rise. You may not think this is something you'll ever have to worry about, but if you're a boomer, your days of vulnerability are probably coming soon.
Other than child abuse, I cannot think of anything worse than the abuse of an elder. The fact is that more and more seniors are experiencing the devastation of being abused and it's usually by a loved one. Care giving can be very taxing. Frustration can often elicit strong reactions from even the mildest tempered people. For those caring for someone with dementia, this frustration can be compounded. It's absolutely a must for those who care give to have help so this does not become a problem. If someone is caring for your elderly loved one, please offer them your help. It will also be a way for you to monitor your elder's well-being.
If you live far from your elder, contact your parent's pastor or neighbor to check in on them for you. It might just save your loved one's life.
Emotional abuse can be harder to take than even physical abuse. Words can hurt and the atmosphere that hostility brings can erode a good environment and shorten the life of an elder. We must remember to speak with our elders in kindness and if we find ourselves frustrated or overly tired, we must reach out for help.
Financial abuse is also on the rise. I just interviewed the adult child of an elder whose brother had moved in with her mom and proceeded to use her bank account for drugs. The elderly mother was so scared of her son, she wouldn't come out of her room. The daughter who lived hundreds of miles away had a huge problem getting her mother to leave. Even when elders are abused, they often will try to defend the abuser. They are dependant on them to stay in their home.
The only asset that this elderly mother has is her home. It's now a home worth much less due to the lifestyle of her son. Her bank account is gone, but she is now safe thanks to a caring daughter.
So what are the signs of abuse in elders?
The National Center on Elder Abuse offers the following as warning signs of elder abuse:
• Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may indicate physical abuse neglect, or mistreatment.
• Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional 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 are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
If you see these signs of abuse, call Adult Protective Services at 1-800-624-8404 or Legal Services for the Elderly at 1-800-750-5353. We must all be willing to step in and stop abuse.
Possibly you could share your experience to make all of us more aware of the signs of abuse for our loved ones.
If you or a family member is going through a crisis, I want you to know that you are not alone. The support and education you need is available at your fingertips from expert care professionals at Lutheran Homes of Michigan. You may talk to a real person who does have the answers, without any obligation by calling 989.652.3470 or by emailing
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