Some signs of abuse may be obvious while others may require a closer look. If you discover possible abuse, what are your next steps?
The person who might be the victim of abuse either could not or would not advocate for themselves. Depending on the level of abuse, you may choose to get a family member involved. Last week’s blog, Elder Abuse and Neglect - Understanding the Warning Signs, will help you understand how to detect red flags.
Adult Protective Services should be contacted when any type of abuse or neglect (even self-neglect!) is suspected. For abuse inside a care facility, contact your local Ombudsmen. You can make a report over the phone, in person, or anonymously. The important thing is not to ignore whatever it is that causes you to believe that something is amiss.
What happens when the abuser is you?
Many caregivers, such as family members and friends, have not received proper training. As they watch their elder’s condition deteriorate they find themselves in an extremely stressful situation. Over time, no matter how good the original intention, their involvement can cause emotional, mental and physical issues, which can eventually lead to caregiver burnout. Emotional fatigue alone can create an environment where impatience, neglect, or lashing out at the elder may seem justified.
What you, the caregiver, can do to avoid your own overwhelm and burnout
- Recognize the signs of caregiver burnout
- Ask for help from family members or friends. Take care of your own health and get medical care if needed
- Get counseling
- Look for a caregiver support group
- Practice stress reduction techniques, exercise, and take care of yourself!
What concerned friends or family members can do
- Watch for the warning signs of elder abuse and if you suspect abuse, report it!
- Track medications to ensure that the amount left in the bottle matches the date on the prescription
- Check financial statements and bills for any questionable activity
- Arrive at your loved one’s home unannounced to get a true sense of what may be going on
- Provide your elder’s caregiver with some needed breaks
- Try to keep different family members involved in the care to prevent the burden from falling on only one person
- Speak out - feelings of shame can keep elder abuse hidden within families
- Substance abuse is a common risk factor; stress and being under the influence heightens the risk of abuse
If you are an elder......
- Make sure that you have your legal and financial affairs in order. If you need to make changes, seek professional help from an attorney or accountant
- If managing your money has become difficult, consider hiring a professional fiduciary. Get references, run a background check if possible
- Do not give out personal information over the phone
- Prizes, loans, investments that sound too good to be true, probably are
- Keep your social life active. Stay in touch with friends and family and other social groups
- Call the National Do Not Call Registry to reduce telemarketing calls (888-382-1222)
- Keep a list of important numbers handy so you know how to report abuse
If you have experienced abuse speak up! Talk with a family member or friend. You can make the call yourself. Call Adult Protective Services and file a report. If the suspected abuse is occurring inside a care facility, contact your local Ombudsmen.
Important to Remember When Reporting Elder Abuse
- Be specific! It is important to give as many details as possible. Write them down before you make the call; details help facilitate a thorough investigation.
- Unless the elder lacks the mental capacity to make decisions on their own, they have the right to refuse help. This may occur for any number of reasons including fear of retaliation, embarrassment, or pride.
- Each new incident of abuse is a new report and a snapshot of what is going on over a period of time. It reminds the caregiver that they are being watched and shows the elder that they are not alone. Isolation increases the danger and decreases the chance of receiving assistance.
If you have any questions or would like to be in touch with a Senior Care Authority Advisor in your area call (888) 854-3910 for a no-cost phone consultation. We have many resources to share with you including subjects that are found in this article. You can also find a local advisor on our website at www.seniorcareauthority.com
Written by Jennifer Smit
Resources: State Directory of Helplines, Hotlines, and Elder Abuse Prevention Resources