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Understanding the Different Types of Elder Abuse

February 22, 2017

 

 

Home caregivers and family members caring for senior loved ones can always be diligent about looking out for the signs of elder abuse. Seniors can be at risk for abuse by anyone, from their doctors to their friends. Elder abuse is defined as any form of intentional treatment or mistreatment of an elderly person that is designed to deprive him or her of:

 

  • Basic necessities, such as shelter, food, clothing, and so forth

  • Dignity and self respect

  • Personal integrity

  • Reasonable care and safety

  • Resources, such as income and/or property

 

Elder abuse can occur at all income levels, to all ethnicities, to all religious beliefs, and to any gender. It is usually intentional but may also occur unintentionally due to carelessness. Additionally, defrauding seniors of their assets is considered abuse, whether it's from a scam artist or a relative. Below are the common types of elder abuse and the signs to watch out for.

 

Physical Elder Abuse

 

Physical abuse takes many forms. All physical abuse is intentional and results in pain and/or injury. Severe forms of physical abuse include:

 

  • Beating

  • Burning

  • Hitting

  • Kicking

  • Pinching

  • Restraining

  • Shoving

  • Slapping

 

Since seniors are often frail, they may be easily harmed. A firm grip on the arm of an elderly person may leave a bruise and may be defined as abuse, particularly if the intent was to force the senior to act against his or her will.

 

Inappropriate use of drugs is also physical abuse. This includes overuse of sleeping pills or narcotics in order to keep the senior sedated, appetite suppressants in order to avoid the necessity of feeding, and so forth. Anything that is contrary to the best interests and well-being of the senior but provides a benefit to someone else can be considered abuse.

 

Physical abuse can take the form of neglect if seniors are deprived of basic care necessities, such as food, clothing, shelter, a clean environment, or anything that may deprive them of overall health and well-being. Bedridden seniors should be kept bathed and turned so that they don't develop bedsores, which are a sign of neglect, and therefore abuse.

 

Emotional Elder Abuse

 

Emotional abuse may be less visible but it can be just as damaging as physical abuse. Abusers of seniors are often people who are viewed as a friend, so intimidation or ridicule is particularly traumatic with this form of abuse.

 

For example, a caregiver who gives the silent treatment to his or her home care client is being abusive. If the home caregiver isolates the senior from family and friends, that's also considered abusive behavior. This is one reason why it is important to hire home caregivers from a reputable home care agency, such as Alegre Home Care.

 

Disrespecting an elderly person can be considered abuse. Seniors deserve to be treated like adults not like children, and insults, humiliation, harassment, and so forth, should not be part of the home caregiving process. If an elderly person is fearful of his or her caregiver, it may be because he or she is being abused in one form or another.

 

Sexual Elder Abuse

 

As horrific as it seems, the elderly are sometimes the victims of sexual abuse. This may involve physical contact, or it may take the form of explicit pictures, forced nudity, and/or unwelcome advances. All non-consensual sexual contact is considered to be abuse and is prosecutable. Although an elderly person may be confused, there will probably be indications, such as heightened distress, if this is occurring.

 

Financial Elder Abuse

 

Since seniors often have people serving as their powers of attorney, seniors are at particular risk for financial abuse. People such as caregivers, family members, and nurses are in unique positions, usually having access to all the most personal information about an elderly person and being able to foster a close, trusting relationship with them.

 

Examples of financial abuse include:

 

  • Cashing checks without approval

  • Forging signatures on documents or checks

  • Misuse of power of attorney or guardianship

  • Theft

  • Scams

 

Sometimes, seniors can be easily tricked by an unscrupulous scam artist who will make grandiose promises in order to obtain their life savings, the deeds to their homes, or any other assets they may have. Close attention to mail received or unusual activity at a financial institution can often prevent these types of fraudulent actions.

 

How To Prevent Elder Abuse

 

The best methods for preventing elder abuse are:

 

  • Hire a professional caregiver from a reputable agency

  • Maintain communication with the senior

  • Be vigilant about anything that seems off

  • Ask questions — communication is key

 

Hiring a professional home caregiver from a reputable home care agency is one of the best methods for ensuring that seniors receive excellent care. Most home caregivers are passionate about their work and are dedicated to providing their clients with the best care possible.

 

Maintaining communication with the senior is essential to ensuring that he or she is receiving the best care possible. Pay attention to what the senior says as well as what he or she doesn't say. An elderly person who is fearful of his or her caregiver may hesitate to speak up for fear of reprisal.

 

If something doesn't seem right, then investigate it. There may not be one particular circumstance but rather an accumulation of small occurrences that will indicate that something is amiss.


The home caregivers at Alegre Home Care are dedicated professionals who are passionate about providing quality care to their clients. Ongoing training, support from a dedicated team, and years of experience provide our clients with the best home caregivers in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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