Elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. A study by HelpAge India found that 73% of Indian Youth admit that elder abuse exists. Half of India’s elderly (50%) surveyed reported experiencing elder abuse, and 77% among them lived with their families. The research also found out that the main abuser is their own child. The son, along with the daughter-in-law, turned out to be the primary abusers.
Elder abuse may be of following types:
- Physical Abuse i.e inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior, e.g. slapping, bruising, or restraining by physical or chemical means.
- Sexual Abuse i.e non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
- Neglect i.e the failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.
- Exploitation i.e stealing, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit.
- Emotional Abuse which includes inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts, e.g. humiliating, intimidating, or threatening.
- Abandonment i.e desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
While one sign does not necessarily indicate abuse, some tell-tale signs indicate that there could be a problem:
- Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.
- Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
- Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation.
- Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect.
- Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person are also signs of elder abuse.
It is important to be alert as old people often suffer in silence. If you notice changes in a senior’s personality or behavior, you should start to question what is going on.