#73 Be Aware
Whether you are a senior wishing to age well, a provider caring for an older person, or a concerned relative – it is vital that you are aware of elder abuse. Only then, can you prevent abuse from happening or stop it before someone is harmed.
The Alberta Canada Elder Abuse Awareness Network shows the stories of three victims. Take a look.
I do not want to be in those folks’ shoes, nor do I want my loved ones to be in them. This is the catalyst for the Aging Well News newsletter.
In 2021, The National Council on Aging said
Approximately one in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced elder abuse. Some estimates range as high as five million elders being abused yearly. One study estimated that only one in 24 cases of abuse are reported to authorities.
Elder abuse is the physical, sexual, emotional abuse, confinement, passive neglect, willful deprivation, and financial exploitation of an older adult. The following are potential signs:
inflicting physical pain or injury on an older adult
touching, fondling, having intercourse, or other sexual activity with an older adult, when the older adult is unable to understand, unwilling to consent, feels threatened or is physically forced
verbally assaulting, threatening, harassing, or intimidating an older adult
In the first video story, the son trys to force his mother into signing paperwork giving him her house.
restraining or isolating an older person, other than for medical reasons
In that same story, the son did not allow his mother’s friends visit her.
failing to provide a senior with life’s necessities, including, but not limited to, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care
In the third story, the daughter doesn’t feed her father when he is hungry.
denying an older person medication, medical care, shelter, food, a therapeutic device, or other physical assistance, and exposing that person to the risk of physical, mental, or emotional harm—except when the older, competent adult has expressed a desire to go without such care
Again, in the third story, the daughter gives her father pills to keep him drugged.
misuing or withholding an older adult’s resources
In the second story, the woman took her mother’s money.
I want to mention four additional forms of elder abuse: scams, nursing home abuse, ageism, and self-neglect.
The American Journal of Public Health estimates that about 5 percent of the elderly (two to three million people) suffer from a scam every year. “What’s worse, it’s very likely an underestimate,” said David Brune, a professor at the University of Toronto. This underestimate is most likely because a large percentage of Internet scams go unreported.
NURSING HOME ABUSE
Nursing home abuse occurs when caretakers harm residents in long-term care facilities. Both intentional and unintentional harm may be considered abuse. It can result in trauma, medical emergencies, and even death.
Sadly, nursing home abuse is prevalent due to understaffing issues, improper training, and burnout. These factors can cause staff members to take out their anger on the people they should care for or prevent them from responding to urgent situations like falls or strokes.
An article entitled Elder Abuse: A Comprehensive Overview and Physician-Associated Challenges notes
Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are among the places with the highest rates of elder abuse. Widespread concern over this first became apparent in the 1970s when there were almost no federal regulations for these facilities.
In 1986, the Institute of Medicine, at the request of Congress, conducted a study in which they found high rates of abuse and neglect among nursing home residents. In 1987, the Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA), as part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, was passed to help ensure the overall well-being of residents through federal regulations.
The act included laws such as providing Medicare and Medicaid payments to nursing homes only if they complied with government requirements.
It is staggering to think that in February of 2022, “more than 200,000 long-term care facility (LTCF) residents and staff have died due to COVID since the start of the pandemic” according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
We had two experiences with nursing home facilities when my husband, Dan, had dementia. The first placement was in a small assisted living home - he lasted a day. The provider could not handle his behavior. The second placement was in a memory care facility during the height of the pandemic.
In retrospect, staff at the facility met Dan’s needs, but not mine. Maybe, I was expecting too much, certainly the pandemic played role. I wanted to talk to him daily, to know how he was doing weekly, and wanted him safe. They did not keep me informed or in the loop; he died of COVID while living there.
I include ageism - the stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) towards others or oneself based on age - as a form of abuse for older adults.
Ageism contributes to deeply ingrained imbalanced age-based social processes and power structures that inherently privilege younger age groups and marginalize older adults as holding less power, which increases vulnerability to elder mistreatment.
Ageism is a type of prejudice that justifies abusive behavior against older people and leads to overlooking the consequences. Elder abuse is known to have a dramatic impact on the self-esteem of victims and potentially leads to death in some cases.
Ageism and the resulting lack of societal awareness render elder abuse, and more generally, older victims of crime, invisible. Older women who suffer abuse and violence are less likely to report to police and justice services. They tend to treat older women differently because of their age.
In silence, older people suffer abuse, violence, and neglect with protection services failing to reach out to them. At the same time, ageism pushes older victims into a state of powerlessness and resignation that acts effectively as a barrier to reporting and seeking protection.
Although elder self-neglect doesn't involve a third-party offender, it's still a form of elder abuse that can raise serious health and safety concerns. Most reported cases of elder abuse involve self-neglect. Knowing when or if to get involved is not easy.
Warning signs of self-neglect include lack of a caregiver plus any of the following:
rapid weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration
unaddressed health conditions
hypothermia or heat exhaustion
unsanitary home or unkempt clothing
lack of adequate food in the house
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
If you are an older person, the article Are You A Sole Ager may provide good ideas such as being aware and prepared.
If you are a caregiver, The Family Care Giver Alliance offers ideas such as identifying personal barriers and taking responsibility for your care.
If your loved one is in an assisted living facility, my best advice is to advocate, get it in writing, be a pest, and know what is happenning.
If you are concerned about an older relative, The National Institute on Aging suggests recognizing behavioral changes and talking with neighbors and friends.
If you suspect a loved one is self-neglecting, the website GuidePosts suggests understanding the issues and calling adult protective services in your area when appropriate.
It’s safe to say that no one wants to be in the position of the victims in the video, nor do we want to see loved one’s in that position either. So, each of us must do what it takes to help ourselves and them to age well and stay healthy.
What is your plan?
This week’s favorite articles
Self -Care Tips for Healthy Living - If we don’t take care of ourselves first, we won’t be able to take care of others.
Inspection and Introspection - This article spoke to me since I am in the same position.
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