Abuse in the geriatric population has been noted as an increasing problem in the United States, and this trend is likely to continue to rise unless firm steps are taken to prevent it. Each state has its own reporting requirements for reporting elder abuse and neglect. However, as of today, there are no federal policies required for reporting abuse and neglect in the geriatric population. In order to continue to prevent and recognize abuse in the elder population, we must continue to train caregivers and healthcare workers in the proper care and treatment of our elder population. We as healthcare workers, and nurses, must aide in making sure we take the proper precautions in this issue. There must be organized programs in healthcare facilities to facilitate the proper training of medical personnel on recognizing and assisting elders of abuse. According to statistics the abusers most likely turns out to be family members and caretakers of the elderly. There are several goals and interventions I feel everyone should put in place to aide in the prevention of elder abuse, including enhancing quality of life, preventing family breakdown, and keeping the elderly persons in their homes as long as their health will allow, especially if this is their wish.
Elder abuse is not just physical abuse it includes, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, financial exploitation and abandonment.
Physical abuse means inflicting physical pain or injury upon an older adult. Sexual abuse means touching, fondling, intercourse, or any other sexual activity with an older adult, when the older adult is unable to understand, unwilling to consent, threatened, or physically forced. Emotional abuse means verbal assaults, threats of abuse, harassment, or intimidation. Confinement means restraining or isolating an older adult, other than for medical reasons. Passive neglect is a caregiver’s failure to provide an older adult with life’s necessities, including, but not limited to, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care. Willful deprivation means denying an older adult 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. Financial exploitation means the misuse or withholding of an older adult’s resources by another.
According to the NCOA, (National Council of Aging) and WHO (World Health Organization) “Approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse. It is estimated to range as high as 5 million elders who are abused each year. One study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities.” There are several factors that make an elder person a target for abuse. Two major factors that make elders a target are Mental impairment, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Also, according to statistics, nearly half of those with dementia experienced some type of abuse or neglect. In addition to that, Interpersonal violence among elder's occurs at an excessive higher rate among adults with a disability.
Some warning signs include: Physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment: Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, burns
Emotional abuse: Unexplained withdrawal from ordinary exercises, stressed or tense relationships; frequent arguments between the caregiver and older adult. Financial abuse: unexpected changes in financial situations. Neglect: pressure ulcers, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, unexplained weight loss. Verbal or emotional abuse: making one feel less than, threats, or other uses of power and control by individuals.
Elders who have been abused have three times higher risk of death than those who have not been abused. In addition, financial abuse of elders is self reported at a higher rate than that of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse or neglect. We as healthcare workers can make a difference in preventing elder abuse by making sure we stay up-to-date on noticing the signs of abuse and neglect of elders. Also we as healthcare workers have to make sure we educate our elder population on how to stay safe, taking care of their health, attending support groups, making sure there are advanced directives in place such as power of attorney and a living will, which puts in place one's wishes in the event of treatment.
In conclusion, as elder abuse is becoming a prominent issue, especially among the healthcare setting we have to advocate for our geriatric population. So anyone who suspects an elder person being abused or mistreated should seek immediate help by contacting their local Adult Protective Services office or the police.
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