By Betsy Cross/Daily News Correspondent
GateHouse News Service
Feb 12, 2013
Elder abuse is not an easy subject to talk about. There’s no easy way to bring it up in conversation and usually there’s a lot of head-shaking, sighing and low tones while it’s being discussed. It’s a serious subject that most people don’t know much about, let alone think they can do anything to help.
More than half a million reports of elder abuse are documented every year, and experts agree that millions more go unreported.
"Elders are vulnerable as they become physically frail," says Pam Fishman, LSW, CHPSW, with the Natick Visiting Nurse Association. "They are often physically, financially and emotionally dependent on others." Abuse doesn’t always leave a bruise either.
Elder abuse can take many forms:
- Physical abuse is when someone uses force against an elder that results in pain, injury or impairment. This can include the using drugs, restraints or confinement to control an elder as well.
- When an elder is intimidated, humiliated or made the scapegoat on a regular basis, it is considered Emotional Abuse. Elders may also be ignored or isolated from friends or activities.
- Sexual abuse is any form of sexual contact with an elder, including physical or visual, without that person’s consent.
- The most common type of elder abuse is neglect. Whether intentional or not, failure to properly care for a person you have agreed to care for constitutes neglect.
- Financial exploitation is also very common. Caregivers who misuse an elder’s checks or credit cards, steal cash or household goods or forge the elder’s signature are guilty of abuse.
So what can we all do to help protect vulnerable elders? "You may meet your neighbor at the mailbox and notice that she has a bruise on her arm or that her house is falling into disrepair. Ask questions and try to notice if she is acting differently than she normally does. If she’s usually cheerful and friendly, but is hurrying back into the house, that may be a sign that something more is going on," advises Fishman. The elder may even be neglecting their own care. For a variety of reasons, they just can’t seem to care for themselves effectively.
Offer to help. Perhaps it’s as simple as the elder’s caregiver needs a break. You could drive the elder to doctor’s appointments or run a few errands.
However, if you suspect something more serious is going on, contact your local elder abuse hotline or Adult Protective Services. In the MetroWest area, Springwell is the agency designated for handling elder abuse claims and can be reached at 617-926-4100. The Massachusetts Elder Abuse Hotline is 1-800-922-2275.
Elder Abuse is a very serious topic and it’s vital that we all know the signs and what to do if we think an elder is being abused.
Betsy Cross is Director of Development for the Natick Visiting Nurse Association, a not-for-profit health care organization providing home care to thousands of people throughout MetroWest each year. For more information, call the Natick VNA at 508-653-3081
SOURCE: The MetroWest Daily News
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