Nov. 26, 2012
Senior citizens can be subjected to many kinds of abuse by their family members, their caregivers, or others in authority who betray their trust.
It’s difficult to estimate how many seniors in Canada are affected by abuse because many cases go unreported due to fear, shame or inability of the senior to seek help.
Here are a few ways to spot the different forms of abuse that can affect seniors:
Physical Abuse: Elderly victims of physical abuse might have unexplainable injuries in various stages of healing, such as limb or skull fractures, bruises, cuts, black eyes, or ligature marks that indicate the use of restraints.
Neglect: When caregivers fail to meet the basic needs of those seniors entrusted in their care, their victims might exhibit an unkempt appearance, have broken or no eyeglasses, hearing aid, dentures and other necessities. They might also be suffering from malnutrition, dehydration, or have untreated sores or infections. They may also be cut off from their friends, support systems, or spiritual resources.
Psychological or Emotional Abuse: Seniors who are regularly being subjected to emotional abuse might show changes in behaviour, appear agitated or fearful, or they might be withdrawn and non-responsive. They may also show attempts at coping mechanisms, such as repetitive rocking, sucking, or biting.
Financial Abuse: Seniors are often the victim of financial abuse, many times at the hands of their own family members. Abusers might steal their money from their home, forge their cheques or misuse money entrusted to their care. Victimized seniors might notice sudden or unexplained withdrawals of large sums of money, or may remember being coerced into signing documents.
Sexual Abuse: Victims of sexual abuse might have bruising around the breasts or genital area. They might also have torn, stained, or bloody underclothing, or they might be diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections.
How to help an abused senior
• If you believe someone is experiencing abuse and is in imminent danger, call 911.
• You can also call the non-emergency number for police in your community. Police can clarify whether the suspected abuse is a criminal matter and can provide information for how to access community resources. Those who call on behalf of an abused senior can remain anonymous.
• The senior’s family doctor can also help by examining the senior for signs of physical or sexual abuse, or physical neglect. A doctor can also refer the senior to a social worker who can offer further help.
• In cases of suspected financial abuse, the senior’s bank should be contacted so they can trace missing funds or place holds on account that might be being misused.
• Most provinces also have senior help hotlines or victim helplines, which can offer advice on how to help an abused senior.
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