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Understanding elder abuse and its signs

As most people age, their physical, mental and health faculties decline and they may need help to perform daily activities such as eating, drinking and getting around. Elderly persons are a vulnerable population and sadly many older people are frequently abused, neglected and/or exploited by their caregivers. Their caregiver can be a family member, a friend or someone that the elderly person trusts. Elder abuse can be inflicted by both men and women. Thus, it is important for everyone to know what the signs of elder abuse are.

Elder abuse refers to any act that is committed knowingly, negligently or intentionally against an older person which causes the vulnerable older person harm or puts them at risk of serious harm. The abuse against an elderly person can be physical, emotional and sexual. Additionally, an elderly person can experience abandonment or be exploited by a caretaker. Self-neglect is also a form of elder abuse since it puts the elderly person at risk of serious harm.

Some signs which may indicate that an elderly person is suffering elder abuse include unexplained bruises, broken bones and other signs of physical and sexual abuse. An elderly person who is experiencing abuse may be withdrawn from activities they once enjoyed or may have a strained or argumentative relationship with their caregiver. A significant and sudden change in the finances of the elderly person may be indicative of exploitation. Finally, poor hygiene, ignored medical needs and bedsores may be telltale signs of neglect. However, it is important to keep in mind that sometimes there may be medical conditions which lead to withdrawal such as depression.

Understanding that the elder population is a vulnerable population is important. Being alert and observant and looking out for the signs mentioned above may help in preventing elder abuse.

Source: AoA.gov, "What is Elder Abuse?," Accessed Feb. 16, 2015

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