Elder Abuse Prevention  – By Annan Boodram & Hiram K. Rampersaud

Elder Abuse Prevention – by The Caribbean Voice

When the caregivers are their children, elders may feel ashamed that their children are inflicting harm on them or they just may not want their children to get into trouble.

Elder self-neglect is defined as the “inability, due to physical or mental impairment or diminished capacity, to perform essential self-care.” This includes an inability to maintain basic daily necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, or medical care, or to manage financial affairs. Neglect is when caregivers (official or unofficial) do not ensure such care or do so in a manner that leaves much to be desired.

Elder neglect or self-neglect warning signs may include unusual weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration; untreated physical problems, such as bed sores; unsanitary living conditions such as dirt, bugs, soiled bedding and clothes; not taking or being given regular baths or regular change of clothes; not wearing appropriate clothes for the weather and unsafe living conditions such as no running water or lack of food supply.     

Elderly individuals are often more vulnerable to various forms of abuse because they tend to have assets that they have accumulated through their lives and because they may also experience mental or physical limitations. In many cases, older persons will refuse to seek assistance because they may be in denial, feel ashamed about needing help, or worried about losing their independence. Some fear retaliation from abusers.

To prevent elder self-neglect, call and visit as often as possible to check up on them. Monitor their medications to ensure the right amounts are taken at the right times. Make sure the supports they need are in place so they can be able to better take care of themselves. As well put in place mechanisms for them to quickly and easily access help if needed. This can be done in many ways, such as, for example, enrolling them in a medical alert program. Abandonment is when the seniors are put out of homes and/or living in the streets. There was one case of a daughter in law seeking a restraining order against her father in law, thereby resulting in the senior being unable to live in the home.

Yet a simple intervention by family and/or friends could have resolved the situation. There was another case of an elder being placed in a basement with no air conditioning in summer and no heat in winter. Meanwhile the son and daughter in law seized all the financial aid the old man obtained as soon as he accessed them. Concerned neighbors who eventually learned of the situation obtained help for the senior citizen. Financial abuse include significant withdrawals from the elder’s accounts; sudden changes in the elder’s financial condition; items or cash missing from the senior’s household; suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and policies; addition of names to the senior’s signature card; financial activity the senior couldn’t have undertaken, such as an ATM withdrawal when the account holder is bedridden.

To prevent financial abuse, check the elders’ bank accounts and credit card statements for unauthorized transactions and always be aware of all activities relating to their financial matters. In addition to inflicting physical hurt, physical abuse includes putting the elder to do tasks for which he/she is incapable. In one case the sent was sent by the daughter in law to do grocery. The elder struggled to push the cart to and from the grocery store and on one or more occasions fell down on the pave. Yet she was in such fear of her daughter in law that she begged others not to report. There are also cases of the elderly forced to do household chores or babysit when they are not fully physically and/or mentally capable of doing so.

Physical abuse warning signs include unexplained signs of injury, such as bruises, welts, or scars, especially if they appear symmetrically on two sides of the body; broken bones, sprains, or dislocations; broken eyeglasses or frames; signs of being restrained, such as rope marks on wrists and ankle or caregiver’s reluctant for you to visit the elderly alone.

Emotional abuse warning signs include being subjected to threats, belittlement, humiliation, ridicule, habitual blaming, menace and terror and being ignored or isolated from friends and family. Sexual abuse warning signs include bruises around breasts or genitals; unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding and torn, stained, or bloody underwear.

If you are an elder who is being abused, tell at least one person – doctor, a friend, or a family member whom you trust. Or call one of the help lines listed below. If you see an older adult being abused or neglected, don’t hesitate to report the situation. In the case of an elder experiencing abuse by a primary caregiver, such as an adult child, do not confront the abuser yourself. This action may put the older person in more danger. Instead, identify the warning signs of abuse or neglect and report them without delay. If you suspect that the elder is in potentially life-threatening danger call the police or 911. Otherwise, call the Eldercare Locator at 1800-677-1116. Trained operators on the hotline can provide you information on local resources and other assistance. In New York State call the Office of Aging at 1800-342-9871.

We should all become mandatory reporters of elder abuse. As well, if you have an elder living with you but find it difficult to manage you do have options. If they are physically and mentally able, enroll them in a senior citizen centers or day care. Otherwise get aides and home visits by nurses through the insurance agencies and doctors’ recommendations, access assisted living for them if they still want and can manage a certain level of independence or place them in nursing homes if they need round the clock care.

However, if you do place your elder in a nursing home please make sure you do your research first to ensure the home does not have a bad reputation As well, speak with home administration so your concerns are addressed. Regularly make unannounced visits so you can ensure the right care is being given and abuse or neglect does not take place. Always speak in private with your elder to find out of she’s happy and all is well. And, if you feel the need to, ask to be allowed to place a camera in the room of your elder.

PS: Catch our Internet radio and FB live program The Mind Body Connection every Monday from 8 to 10 PM with hosts Shanaz Hussain and Hiram Rampersaud. Log on to The Caribbean Voice Media page on FB for videos of all programs. Also The Caribbean Voice can help you access help for ay and all mental health issues. Please email us at caribvoice@aol.com, call 646-461-0574 (Annan), 917-767-2248 (Hiram), 631805-6605 (Shanaz) or 516-286-8952 (Dr. Rodney). Also check out our website at http://www.caribvoice.org for more information.

SOURCE: READ MORE: Elder Abuse Prevention by The Caribbean Voice

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