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NJ Seniors – How to Identify and Stop Elderly Abuse

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NJ Senior Safety

The victim of senior abuse is typically female, 70 years of age or older, and physically or mentally impaired. She usually lives with and is physically and emotionally dependent upon the abuser. Most studies indicate the abuser to be the daughter or son of the victim.

It is a far ranging problem that affects millions of elderly people.  Elder abuse is not something that most elders would ever talk about comfortably. Usually they are very dependent on the person doing the abusing, which creates an even more complicated situation that may be difficult for them to talk about.

Elder abuse does not tend to occur by bad people. There is a connection between adult children who care for elders and alcoholism or mental illness. But a lot of what occurs in elder abuse is done by caregivers who are very stressed by their role and don’t know where to turn for help.

Here are risk factors in a caregiver that can lead to abuse:

  • Inability to cope with stress.
  • Depression
  • Lack of support or isolation
  • Substance abuse and mental illness
  • History of violent interactions

Here is a closer look at some questions and answers concerning senior abuse:

What is senior abuse?
Elder abuse is when a caregiver harms an elderly person. Elder abuse can be physical, emotional or verbal, including financial exploitation and neglect.

How can you spot abuse?
If it’s physical abuse, you’re looking for changes in established patterns, which could be changes in the behavior or personality of the elder if they seem more fearful or afraid.

Are there continuous unexplained injuries?
Yes, but often the abuse is emotional, which is more difficult to spot.  In this case, look for threatening kinds of behavior, which tends to be a little harder to identify, but over time becomes evident.  In neglect, you will see a senior who is left alone in unsanitary living conditions. They might have a physical problem like bedsores or may have lost weight.  Financial exploitation usually results in checks being written out that shouldn’t, unexplained withdrawals from the account, lots of unpaid bills, or the elder telling you that someone came by and took money.

What can families do if they think an elder is at risk?
Find help, whether it’s from other family members or formal providers. Not being alone, not being isolated, talking to helpers, going to support groups, all of that will diminish their feelings of isolation.

When do you know it’s time to step in and intervene?
If you see something you don’t like, think about it, talk about it, report it, do whatever you have to, just don’t ignore it.

Are there organizations or social services that can step in?
States differ on who is required to report abuse and they differ on the definition of abuse and neglect, so you have to look at your own state.  To simplify this process, AARP has put together this State-by-State Elder Abuse Resource List.

Posted by: Frank Esposito, Vice President of Expert Home Care.  New Jersey’s Expert Home Care provides professional and reliable home health care and companion care for NJ seniors, helping them with their daily living activities since 1984. Please call us toll free at 800-848-2336 when you have elder care related questions or need assistance for a loved one. Get a Free Home Care Assessment (a $375 value!) when you mention this post.

Expert Home Care

Frank Esposito has 33 years experience in the field of non-medical home care and home health care in the state of New Jersey (NJ). As an operations manager he has delivered over 65 million hours of service to 8,000 + clients. He is sought after nationwide as a consultant and trainer.

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