There is a serious under-discussed problem in our country – elder abuse.
When someone you love is being abused, it's unbearable for them and you. I would know, I've been through it myself. I became a nurse, and ultimately the Senior Bodyguard, after my grandmother was abused in a nursing home at the hands of a trusted caregiver. She never fully recovered from that trauma.
According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some estimates range as high as 1 in 5 being abused, with only 1 in 14 cases of abuse being reported to the authorities.
There are many types of abuse (physical, emotional, financial, neglect), but today we are going to focus on signs physical abuse.
SIGNS OF PHYSICAL ABUSE
When a senior citizen is being physically abused, they will often make excuses. They're embarrassed, don't want to cause problems, and it's highly likely the abuser is a family member. They don't want to upset you, be moved out of their homes, or get the caregiver into trouble.
Signs of physical abuse are marks on the face, broken glasses, marks on the wrists, rope marks, scrapes, broken bones, bruises, and burns. Take note of changes in eating habits and depression as well.
Common verbal excuses include, "I tripped and fell", "I ran into a wall", and "I bruise easily because I'm old."
While all of these things may legitimately happen, if it seems fishy and repetitive – be wary.
WHAT TO DO
So you've noticed the signs, things just don't add up, and your gut is telling you something is wrong. The first thing you need to do is get your loved one away from their caregiver.
An abusive caregiver will make it extremely difficult for you to talk to the victim alone. Demand it. Victims clam up around an abuser. You must find a way to talk alone.
Now that you have your loved one alone with you, reassure him or her. Gain their trust. Make sure he or she knows that any empty threats being told to them by the caregiver are asinine and without merit.
Common caregiver threats include removing a senior citizen from the home and putting them in a nursing home for creating waves, humiliation, threatening to hurt someone else (a child or grandchild), and/or flat out telling them that they're senile and no one will believe it.
If you suspect your loved one is being abused, contact your local Adult Protective Services branch. You can also reach out to me toll free at 800-276-2796. I will guide in the right direction.
Protect a senior citizen today. Know the signs. Follow your gut.
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