Elder Abuse: What is it and How does it Happen?

Elder abuse can be defined as mental or physical abuse inflicted on an elderly person by someone they trust and depend on to provide them with the basic necessities of life, including companionship, transportation, food, and personal care.  

Who Can be an Abuser of the Elderly?

The abuser can be a friend or family member in a home setting or a staff member at a retirement home.  Elder abuse can be in the form of sexual abuse, neglect, financial abuse, or mental abuse.  In many cases, it is a combination of all of these abuses.

How are Elders Being Abused?

Sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual activity or sexual assault.  Neglect is the failure to provide food or health services for a dependent elder.  Financial abuse can include stealing money or pension cheques, committing forgery, fraud, or extortion, misusing a power of attorney, or forcing an elderly person to sell their property or other assets. Mental abuse can include threatening, coercing, embarrassing, humiliating, frightening, or insulting an elderly person, hiding their eyeglasses, dentures, or hearing aids, or treating them like a child.  All of these forms of abuse are considered crimes and should be reported.

The Signs of Elder Abuse

The signs and symptoms of elder abuse may include depression, anxiety, poor hygiene, dehydration, weight loss, and over sedation.  The abuser may not allow visitors and socially isolate the elder, even from family members, often destroying family relationships in the process.  

Abusers often have drug or alcohol problems, antisocial behaviour, or mental problems.  The abuse takes place because the abuser has control or power over the victim, often because the abuser is the primary caregiver and threatens to leave the victim alone.

It sickens me to know that there are people out there that prey on the elderly.  In researching the subject, I have learned that for every case of elder abuse that is discovered and reported, there are thousands of others that are slipping through the cracks.  

Be Alert! Do not let this happen to someone you care about!