Why is it under-reported?
Many cases involve family or elders in a close relationship with victim, which minimizes the victim’s interest in reporting abuse, as well as people without capacity might not even know that a son or daughter is obtaining property or money without their knowledge.”
In some cases it’s harder to recover from emotional betrayal than it is to rebound from a physical injury. That’s all the more reason for busy caregivers to spot and stop potential abuse. Consider these six smart ways to protect your older loved ones:
1. Keep an Eye Peeled for Signs
Elder abuse is not always easy to spot. Some signs are obvious; others aren’t. Check the person physically for bruises and marks. Monitor finances, property, and accounts if you suspect money, real estate, and valuables are being taken. Look for emotional changes.
2. Monitor the Situation from up Close
Keep an eye on both the mental and physical health of your loved one in person and then get second or third opinions if you need more perspective. If you’re managing care from far away, you need to have someone who’s a trusted regular visitor.
3. Focus on Covert as Well as Overt Abuse
Sometimes, abuse can be subtle. For example, withholding is abuse, as when someone intentionally withholds or delays providing needed medication, or delays changing soiled clothes.
4. Don’t Allow Your Loved One to Be Isolated
According to Joy Solomon, director and managing attorney for the Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention in New York, “Isolation is the engine that keeps abuse going”. Abusers are predatory in that they typically like to separate victims from others in order to gain control and prevent transparency.
What for signs of a stranger, friend, or even family member showing unusual or extreme interest in your loved one?
5. If Your Loved One Can’t Vocalize Abuse, Get Evidence
What can you do when your loved ones suffer yet are unable to express it? “For a person who lacks capacity to indicate abuse has occurred, get evidence. Oversee financial accounts or check for bruises,” says Solomon. “Abuse does occur in facilities, but for the most part, they are regulated. In any institutional setting, however, you need to be an advocate, communicating regularly with staff and staying vigilant so you can ensure they’re being cared for properly. In situations where the victim is being cared for at home (an increasing trend), it’s a private, unregulated space. Make sure you use licensed caregiving agencies.”
6. Act as Soon As You Suspect Abuse
Experts recommend calling 911 immediately if you believe an elderly friend, relative, or neighbor is in immediate, life-threatening danger. To find the right help-line, hotline, or elder abuse resources in your area, visit the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA).
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