What is Elder Abuse
Elder abuse is typically an abuse of elderly people by their caregivers. It also is known by the names of elder mistreatment and senior abuse. It can include physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. According to the World Health Organization, one in six people over the age of sixty experience some sort of abuse. It is common in institutional care settings such as nursing homes, and the rate of elder abuse is expected to rise as the world’s elderly population increases.
Elder abuse can be a single act, or it can consist of long-term, repeated actions. It’s estimated that only one in twenty-four cases of elder abuse are ever reported. This can be for a number of reasons, such as the elderly person being afraid of reporting their family, friends, or caregivers. They may also have health problems that make it difficult for them to make a report and seek help.
Elder Abuse Risk Factors
There are a number of risk factors that can increase an elderly person’s risk of experiencing abuse.
- Social isolation and lack of social support
- Poor physical health
- Poor mental health conditions, including dementia
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- Takes medication that can make him confused
- Gender (women may be more at risk than men depending on cultural factors if they already are not valued in certain cultures)
- Shared living situation (living with caregiver)
- Insufficient funds to pay for care
- Overworked or poorly trained caretaker staff
- The caregiver feels resentful and overwhelmed
- The caregiver has a criminal history or a history of abusing others
Elder Financial Abuse
One common form of elder abuse is financial abuse. According to the Older Americans Act of 2006, elder financial abuse can be defined as “the fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized, or improper act or process of an individual, including a caregiver or fiduciary, that uses the resources of an older individual for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain, or that results in depriving an older individual of rightful access to, or use of, benefits, resources, belongings, or assets.”
There are two main types of elder financial abuse. The first is elder financial abuse committed by family and caregivers. In this case, the caregiver may use the elderly person’s money or property in a way that is not authorized by the victim. For example, the caregiver may take control of the elderly person’s bank account or benefit’s checks. The caregiver may influence the elderly person to change his will when he is not competent to make decisions or may borrow money from the elderly person and never repay it.
The second type of elder financial abuse takes the form of scams that intentionally target senior citizens. People over age 50 years make up 35% of the American population but 57% of fraud victims according to the AARP. Types of financial scams that target the elderly include:
- Insurance and investment scams
- Lottery scams
- Identity theft
- Work from home scams
- Reverse mortgages and other types of predatory lending practices
- Medical billing scams
- Unnecessary medical care
- Charitable giving scams -- including rewriting wills
- Sweepstakes scams that require the elderly person to pay to collect “winnings”
- Pharmaceutical or supplement scams
- Unauthorized charges by service providers
As a result of elder financial abuse, victims have been known to lose their homes, skip medical care, skipped meals, and suffer depression and anxiety.
Ways to Prevent Elder Abuse
- Encourage elderly people to go to community events, such as religious services
- Avoid isolating elderly people
- Family and loved ones should stay in touch with elderly people
- Look for physical signs of abuse, sudden nightmares or fear, unexplained bruised and broken bones, changes in an elderly person’s will, unusual spending or ATM withdrawals, poor hygiene and signs of neglect
- Do a thorough background check on anyone you hire as a caretaker, including getting references
If you have any concerns, call the National Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-222-8000.