The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization introduced June 15 as the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in 2006. Given the physical and emotional abuse associated with senior citizens, the day aims to raise awareness among individuals, communities, and organizations.
Elder people aged 65 or above constitute 14.9% of the entire US population. By 2030, the number is expected to outnumber the global youth population, rising by 38%, from 1 billion to 1.4 billion people. The public health and social rights of such a large chunk of the total citizens need to be addressed.
Elder abuse is prevalent in almost all parts of the world, although the exact prevalence rates are unknown. The National Committee for prevention of Elder Abuse reports that over 750,000 people aged 60 or above have been subject to domestic abuse.
About 85% of these cases go unnoticed because neglected elders do not have a trustworthy person around them. Most feel ashamed while opening up about such incidents or fear that the situation might get worse. The lack of physical and personal independence stops them from reporting abuse. Elders are also usually afraid of reporting cases of ill-treatment in fear of having to leave their homes and being sent to nursing & care facilities.
Elder abuse can vary in several forms. The most common kinds of abuse include:
- Verbal abuse: either not communicating with them for days or threatening. manipulating and mentally/emotionally harming them
- Physical abuse: anything that causes pain and injury, like hitting, holding them underwater, withholding medications, or putting them on drugs
- Financial abuse: using their property and finances illegally through tech support, lottery, or scamming them.
- Sexual abuse: inappropriately touching, rape, forced nudity, or unwanted sexual acts.
- Social Abuse: isolating them from their friends, family, and social support groups.
- Neglecting their needs: not providing for their care needs.
There can be multiple reasons why elders face abuse. Intentional or unintentional, the chief cause of elderly abuse is ignorance of the fundamental rights of humans and a lack of understanding of the needs associated with aging.
Abuse occurs because of the false negative stereotype about elders having no valuable role for humanity and their increasing physical dependence with age. Family members dependent on elders financially can do anything to take advantage of monetary benefits, including mistreatment by their provider.
If the caretakers are addicted to drugs, alcohol, or gambling, they will abuse the weak elders emotionally, physically, and psychologically.
Taking care of the elderly is a highly draining job. Dealing with their illnesses, managing their medications, helping them with clothing, feeding, and wiping up cause burnout. Stressful caretakers take their frustration out on the elderly by verbally abusing them in most cases.
Elders are often lonely, hence more vulnerable to abuse. Try to engage them with people of similar ages according to their hobbies and make them feel less lonely or isolated.
Divide the caregiving duties among multiple people who will do the job wholeheartedly. Mulitple people taking care of their financial, emotional, and physical needs is much better than just one dealing with all the stress. When only one person provides all kinds of support, chances are he/she will burn out very soon.
Encourage your elders to take care of their physical health by exercise. Their poor health will result in more people taking advantage of them. When they are physically active, they feel empowered and are less prone to abuse.
Put them in charge of their finances. They should know their assets and where their money is being spent. This should keep people from abusing them for financial benefits. Educate them about scams that might cause them to lose their money.
Make sure you spend an adequate amount of time with them — talk to them about their life experiences and make them feel loved. If they feel they are under abuse, they will open up to you about it.
Know that you cannot expect all household members to respect the elderly. Some of them might just despise them and may even try to abuse them in your absence. To deal with this, make sure the elderly own and know how to use a personal safety device like the Silent Beacon. With just a button press, the elderly can send alerts along with their GPS location to all the emergency contacts, including 911.
Elders in nursing homes are more vulnerable to abuse since they do not have their loved ones around. If your elders are in a nursing home, understand what kinds of abuse they might face and let them know about it so they can protect themselves.
Visit the nursing home regularly, so you know that the basic needs of your elders are not neglected. Meet the nursing staff in person and the people that are already admitted there. Keep a vigilant eye for any red flags. Prioritize their safety as much as you would worry about their health. Try to figure out if a nurse has had a history of mistreating people before.
If, by any chance, abuse happens, report it to the authorities immediately. Follow the case until strict action is taken against the abuser.
On the other hand, nursing homes should enforce strict laws against abuse and ensure that concrete patient-care policies are being implemented. They should introduce monitoring systems, so the staff is being watched at all times. The nursing staff should receive regular training on how they can prevent abuse.
You cannot be present at all times to watch over the elderly in a nursing home. They must have a personal safety device to call for help in case of abuse.
Abuse is an abhorrent act, and elders need to be ensured that it does not happen due to their fault. It is a crime and hence requires prompt reporting. Silent Beacon understands the safety concerns of the seniors and, therefore, has introduced its panic button for the elderly.
The panic button is a wearable Bluetooth personal safety device that pairs with the phone. Whenever the elders find themselves at risk, they can inform their emergency contacts and even call 911 with just the touch of a button. Their real-time GPS location is also shared, so help can reach them fast.
The panic button will help them get immediate help — when they feel threatened or are under a medical emergency. Although a panic button can’t prevent elder abuse, it can make seniors feel empowered and heard.