As parents age, the family dynamic changes.
Role reversals take place as sons and daughters become the parents, and the parents – in their declining physical and mental state – may become the child.
It may be sad to experience, but, in some cases, it’s inevitable.
Ultimately, though, we must advocate for our aging parents. And one of those areas is recognizing and preventing elder abuse.
Abuse can occur anywhere, anytime
Elder abuse – physical, emotional, sexual and financial exploitation – is a topic that many families don’t know how to address or plain don’t understand.
Perhaps they think that it can’t happen in their family, but it can occur anywhere and anytime: in the aging parent’s or a relative’s home, assisting living center, or nursing home.
The once proud, strong and delightful person you knew as mother or father has changed into a vulnerable adult who can no longer take care of themselves, and may not be able to communicate – a shell of their former selves.
This is the time that they need you most.
Changes in behavior and physical states
In a previous blog, we addressed financial abuse. For this one, we will focus on the aspects of physical and emotional abuse, recognizing that it occurs and how we can prevent it.
When signs of abuse arise such as changes in the elder person’s behavior or physical states, immediate intervention is necessary. It’s critical to reduce any small- and long-term physical and psychological effects that have already changed your loved one.
Here’s a list of some types of elder abuse:
- Physical abuse may include unexplained injuries such as bruises, scratches and black eyes. Has your parent had a behavioral change, becoming more fearful, anxious, angry, or depressed? These could be signs of physical abuse.
- Emotional or psychological abuse takes place through insults, overt and unnecessary criticism, intimidation or harassment.
- Neglect can occur if a caregiver is shirking his or her responsibilities. Signs to look for on a loved one may include bedsores, poor hygiene, dehydration and malnutrition.
- Abandonment happens when vulnerable seniors are left alone to take care of themselves, and they just can’t do it sufficiently. Don’t leave them to fend for themselves.
- Sexual abuse takes place when sexual contact with a senior citizen is non-consensual. Some high-profile cases have occurred in nursing homes.
Should you suspect abuse of an elderly person, report it immediately by contacting your local Adult Protective Services or law enforcement. And if you wish to pursue legal action, contact a law firm that focuses on elder abuse.