The elderly deserve to be treated with respect and care, but unfortunately the reality for some elders from the US and all over the world is the opposite since they are abused. Elder abuse is defined as “intentional or neglectful acts by a caregiver or ‘trusted’ individual that lead to, or may lead to, harm of a vulnerable elder. Physical abuse; neglect; emotional or psychological abuse; verbal abuse and threats; financial abuse and exploitation; sexual abuse; and abandonment are considered forms of elder abuse. In many states, self‐neglect is also considered mistreatment” (National Center on Elder Abuse [NCEA], 2010). Elder abuse is a real problem, and the saddest part is that it is commonly perpetrated by family members or caregivers, the people who are supposed to be providing care to the victims, not abusing them. Any elder can become a victim since there are no ethnic or cultural barriers and no social-economic statuses when it comes to elder abuse. It has been found that women and older elders are more vulnerable to be abused and that the elderly that suffer from dementia are at a higher risk (NCEA, 2010). It has been estimated that between one and two million older adults ages 65 years and older suffer some kind of abuse each year in the US alone (NCEA, 2005).
There are many kinds of abuse that the elderly are victims of. Some elderly suffer from physical and psychological abuse, neglect, or are financially exploited. According to the Administration on aging, physical abuse occurs when the elderly are intentionally hurt by someone, by inflicting pain or any type of physical injury such as bruises or burns. They may also become victims of sexual abuse which happens whenever it is un-consensual or they are molested. Emotional abuse happens when the elderly suffer from inflicted mental pain; it can be verbal abuse or humiliation, threats of fear and intimidation. Moreover, some elderly suffer from neglect abuse, which happens when the person that is supposedly providing care to them does not provide them food, health care, adequate shelter, not meeting their personal needs or have them live in unsanitary conditions. They may be practically abandoned when they are neglected. The elderly are also vulnerable to being exploited, which is also a kind of abuse. This happens when someone illegally takes their financial assets, property or money. In my family, my grandmother’s brother has been exploited by his own son. He has threatened him when he wants money, and since my uncle is in his late 70’s and suffers from diabetes, he can’t defend himself so other family members have stepped in to stop the abuse. All these types of abuse are serious and should be reported but unfortunately many are kept in silence.
There are hundreds of thousands of older adults worldwide that have been abused once or multiple times. In the US, more than one million Americans 65 years or older have been abused. The exact number is unknown since many of the victims never report that they have been abused (NCEA, 2005). In other developed and developing countries the same story is repeated. Elder adults are abused and most of the times the abuses that they suffer go unreported, making the problem grow. In some countries elder abuse is considered a private matter and the topic is a taboo and it is ignored (World Health Organization, 2011). Here in the US, there are laws in all 50 states that protect the elderly from abuse, but the abuse has to be reported for there to be solutions.
Elderly abuse is committed in different settings, most commonly at home but it can also happen in nursing homes and other institutions. Many elderly live alone or with family members, so when they are abused, it is common to find that the abuser is a family member or paid caregiver, someone that the elder knows. Abuse can happen in nursing homes too and there have been many stories of elder abuse in these places that get attention but most abuse does not happen here (American Psychological Association). Many elder adults have been victims of abuse in other institutions like clubs or senior day care centers but abuse in these places is less common than abuse at home or nursing homes.
To conclude, elder abuse can happen to anyone. Elders from all socio-economic backgrounds, cultures and races are vulnerable to suffer some type of abuse. The risk is higher for certain groups; women, older elders and elders that suffer from dementia (NCEA, 2010). It may be hard to determine if an elder has been abused and has not reported it. There are many warning signs that can alert one if an elder has been abused. The abused elder’s personality may have changed, and/or they may have withdrawn from many activities and might have physical injuries that would make the abuse obvious. Changes in their financial situation may also indicate some type of exploitation (Administration on Aging, 2009). There are many things that can be done to prevent elder abuse; reporting abuse is the first step and applying the laws that protect the elderly. Keeping in touch with the elderly may help prevent the abuse. I think that people should also be aware of the types of abuse and how to help if they find out that a family member or friend is a victim. It is really sad to hear stories of our elders being abused when they should be loved, respected and taken care of. We can make a difference and stop elder abuse.
Administration on aging. (2009, October 08). Retrieved from http://www.aoa.gov/AoA_programs/Elder_Rights/EA_Prevention/whatIsEA.aspx
American psychological association. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/aging/resources/guides/elder-abuse.aspx
National center on elder abuse. (2005). Elder abuse prevalence and incidence. Retrieved from http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/ncearoot/Main_Site/pdf/publication/FinalStatistics050331.pdf
NCEA. (2011). Retrieved from National Center on Elder Abuse website: http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/ncearoot/Main_Site/index.aspx
World Health Organization. (2011, 04). World health organization. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/ageing/projects/elder_abuse/en/