Elder Abuse in America

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Abuse can happen to anyone regardless of age, race, gender, religion, or ethnicity. Abuse is defined as any behavior or action designed to control, intimidate, threaten, or injure another person. It is a misuse of power which uses the bonds of intimacy, trust and dependency to make the victim vulnerable. A person can suffer from many types of abuse such as physical, emotional, financial, and sexual. Because elder abuse is a “silent condition” the number of victims can only be estimated (“,” 2018). Researchers believe that 1-2 million people a year over the age of 65 are victims of one or more forms of abuse and ninety percent of all abuse perpetrators are family member, including spouses, adult children, partners and other relatives (Traxler, 2018). This number will only continue to rise as people are living longer and chronic illnesses are better managed with continued medical advances.

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Many cases of elder abuse go unreported for several reasons. Most medical professionals are not properly educated on how to detect abuse, and thus do not know the signs to look for. Secondly, the elderly person does not want the person causing the abuse to get into any trouble. Lastly, the elderly person is fearful and or lacks the cognitive ability to report the abuse. Knowledge on elder abuse lags as much as two decades behind the fields of child abuse and domestic violence (Traxler, 2018). The need for more research is urgent and it is an area that calls out for a coordinated, systematic approach that includes policy-makers, researchers and funders (2014).

The most common form of abuse in elders is physical. Physical abuse is causing intentional bodily harm by neglect, pushing, hitting, or slapping. Those who are being abused often have bruises, welts, wounds, and injuries that appear suddenly. In some cases, the abuse escalates, and the person will suffer more severe injuries like dental problems, head injuries, broken bones, and pressure sores. Many of the victims will have persistent physical pain and soreness, nutrition and hydration issues, sleep disturbances, and even increased susceptibility to new illnesses including sexually transmitted diseases. Often the elderly being physically abused will have an exacerbation of pre-existing health conditions, and sadly are at an increased risk for premature death (Statistics/Data, 2018).

Physical abuse is never acceptable, no matter the case. In the elderly population physical abuse is usually brought on because they are seen as frail and an easy target for abuse. The elderly person can not fight back or physically defend themselves leaving them helpless. Nursing home residents, women, those with no family or visitors, disabled, and dementia patients are the majority of the abused. The events usually happen while the elderly person is being bathed, clothed, or given medication (“Elder Abuse,” 2016). The physical signs of abuse eventually fade away, but the repercussions of the abuse can leave the victim depressed, vulnerable and feeling afraid.

Like physical abuse emotional abuse is something that no one deserves. The elderly population are seen as vulnerable and weak individuals, leaving them more susceptible to abuse. Emotional abuse is sometimes called psychological abuse. This can include a caregiver saying hurtful words, yelling, threatening, or repeatedly ignoring the older person (“Elder Abuse,” 2016). A lot of the elderly today are taken care of in nursing homes or assisted living communities and not in their home by family members. They are left in the care of strangers who have been trusted to provide care for their loved one. Emotional abuse leads to depression, self-injury, aggression, and sleep disturbances. The victim of emotional abuse will often be withdrawn and have little self-esteem. Emotional abuse is more difficult to identify because there are not any physical signs of abuse.

There are more than two million elderly people who suffer from emotional abuse every year, with more than sixty percent of them being women. The abusers are usually health care workers but can be family members as well (Traxler, 2018). Acts of emotional abuse can be intentional, but they can also be unintentional when the abuser is overly stressed and unknowingly lashing out or harming the elderly person. Emotional abuse can be both verbal and nonverbal in nature (“Examples of Emotional Abuse,” 2013). The abuser takes advantage of the elderly person, whether the abuse is intentional or not. That person is no longer a person when the abuse happens, their dignity and respect as a human being no longer matters. They may be alone and fear that if they report the act it may not be handled properly, or the abuser will retaliate and the abuse will escalate.

Like other forms of abuse, financial abusers will usually target people they believe are more vulnerable or easy to confuse. Because the elderly are more likely to be frail and suffering from cognitive decline, they are seen as easy targets by scam artists and even family members. The elderly population are at greater risk because they are dependent on either family or a caregiver to take care of them. Unfortunately, this can lead to the elderly person being taken advantage of by the person providing the care. Research has shown that one of the biggest risk factors for financial abuse is poor physical health and lack of independence. If an elderly person is ill or physically unable to take care of themselves, they are more likely to be exploited. Financial abuse, like both physical and emotional abuse, the elderly person may be afraid to refuse a caregiver’s demands or report the abuse because they are dependent on the caregiver and fear retaliation. Not only are these types of individuals at greater risk for financial exploitation, but the financial exploitation of these individuals is usually more severe than other cases (“Risk Factors for Financial Exploitation,” 2018).

Financial abuse affects 1 in every 20 people over the age of 65. The elderly person is usually deceived by fake charities, telemarketing and internet scams, identity theft, forgery, and embezzlement. Financial abuse effects not only the person’s money, but their overall well-being. Like other forms abuse, this can leave the senior depressed, withdrawn, and vulnerable. The abuse can affect the person in a way that they may no longer be able to afford medical care, get medications that aren’t covered by insurance, forgoing treatment due to out-of-pocket costs, or even not going to the dentist or purchasing healthful foods, due to expense. Because most seniors are on a fixed income, this loss of financial stability directly impacts their quality of life and can lead to a premature death.

No matter how old a person may be, they are always entitled to be treated properly, and as valuable members of their community. Elder abuse is a growing problem in our world today and needs to be stopped. Research and interventions are being conducted all over the United States in efforts to ensure better care and protection for the elderly population. Data on the extent of the problem in institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities are scarce (“Scope of the Problem,” 2018). Currently there is very little funding available for elder abuse, however there has been recent spikes in education, research, and awareness. In 2013 it was reported that federal agencies spent close to $12 million for all activities related to elder abuse, however it was just a tiny fraction of the $649 million made available for abuse prevention and research. There is also a shortage on grant reviewers who are knowledgeable on elder abuse, and without them the field of elder abuse is in great jeopardy (Besdine, 2015).

The world’s population of elderly people is growing every year due to the developments in medical advancements. With more elderly people, the numbers of those abused will only continue to rise. It is predicted that by the year 2050, the global population of people aged 60 years and older will more than double, from 900 million in 2015 to about 2 billion. If the proportion of elder abuse victims remains constant, the number of victims will increase rapidly due to population ageing, growing to 320 million victims by 2050 (“Scope of the Problem,” 2018).

It is imperative that all forms of elder abuse is recognized and the warning signs. Being aware and knowledgeable makes it possible to report abuse and hopefully one day stop it completely. There are several community and national based services dedicated to elder abuse education and prevention. It is necessary to learn how to recognize, prevent, and report abuse. It is the responsibility of everyone in the community including the elderly to help identify ways to empower older people through senior centers and intergenerational programs that will reduce the harmful effects of abuse (“Tools and Tips,” 2018). Like child and domestic abuse, elder abuse can also overcome hurdles. Having the tools and knowledge to end abuse is powerful and being empowered is a vital part of finding a solution.

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Elder Abuse in America. (2021, Mar 10). Retrieved January 27, 2023 , from
https://studydriver.com/elder-abuse-in-america/

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