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Spotting Elder Abuse

For many elderly people, the need for in-home care or relocation to a nursing home arises because of an accident or injury. The older we get, the more likely we are to suffer injury in a slip and fall or other domestic accident. The fact that injuries are more common for older people makes spotting situations of elder abuse difficult. It is important to know what to look for when visiting with elderly loved ones to make sure they are being cared for properly.

It is not always easy to watch your parents, grandparents or other loved ones age. The people who cared and nurtured you may eventually need your help to stay safe from abuse. That can mean having uncomfortable conversations about some topics that are considered taboo. One of the most common forms of abuse is financial abuse. If you find that your loved one has changed his or her spending dramatically, that is a red flag. If a caregiver moves in or is clearly dependent on your loved one for financial support, that is a red flag. It is fair to wonder at the motivations of someone who is newly close to your loved one, even if that person is also a relative. 

Injuries may be harder to prevent as we age, but they are still a major warning sign of neglect or abuse. Cuts and bruises that your loved one can't or won't explain are a worrisome sign. Bed sores are a clear sign of neglect. Dehydration, malnutrition and a generally dirty or disheveled appearance are also signs of inadequate care. Untreated medical conditions are a common problem in situations of neglect or abuse. If you spot any of these conditions, you owe it to your loved one to take a closer look at the care they are receiving.

The aging process can seem like a never-ending attack on one's dignity. It is easy to dismiss complaints of pain, discomfort and even humiliation as just part of a painful process. You are doing your loved ones a disservice if you assume these complaints have no merit. If your loved one is afraid of his or her caregiver, it could be because they are being mistreated. Ask your loved ones about their care when the caregiver is not around. Ask them about their finances. Ask them about their health. Offer more than just sympathy when they say something is wrong. Elder abuse is a common problem. Don't let your loved ones fall victim because you were too shy to ask pointed questions.

Source: National Center on Elder Abuse, "Home for the Holidays," 2016 

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