Abuse and neglect of a senior or vulnerable adult happens much more often than most of us have any idea. Approximately 9.5% of the US population over the age of 65 experiences some type of abuse, neglect and/or exploitation. We like to think that it won’t happen in our families. Unfortunately, it can and very well may.
Females are abused more frequently than males, and the older the individual is, the more likely they are to be abused. The vast majority of abusers are family members (approximately 90%); most abusers are adult children, spouses, or partners. Family members who abuse drugs or alcohol, who have a mental/emotional illness, and those who feel burdened by their caregiving responsibilities abuse at higher rates than those who do not.
Abuse comes in many forms, neglect being the most frequent, followed by physical abuse, financial exploitation, and emotional abuse. Neglect is the refusal to provide an elderly person with life necessities such as food, water, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medicine, comfort, and personal safety. Physical abuse is a physical force that causes or is likely to cause injury, pain or impairment to an elder. Financial abuse or exploitation is the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property or assets.
The elder is often reluctant to acknowledge or report abuse themselves because of fear of retaliation, fear of abandonment, lack of physical and/or cognitive ability to report, or because they don’t want to get the abuser, often a family member, in trouble.
We must be willing to stand up to protect our elders. If you have concerns, or suspect abuse, do your part – talk to someone, call Adult Protective Services (APS). APS provides services in each state to insure the safety and well-being of elders and adults with disabilities who are in danger of being mistreated or neglected, are unable to take care of themselves or protect themselves from harm, and have no one to assist them. A staff member will make contact with the elder to assess their current risk factors. With the help of the elder, the APS worker will develop a plan to assist them. Those who have the capability to understand their circumstances have the right to refuse services, regardless of the level of risk. If you suspect abuse, call 208-334-3833.
Written by: Dee Childers, Life Changes Elder Care Consulting, LLC