Nobody expects anything to happen to their loved ones when they are given professional care. Odds are you're paying good money to ensure that your loved one is properly taken care of so that their quality of life remains high.
You've probably done a lot of research to make sure the caregiver is reputable as well. Unfortunately, elder abuse is something that can still happen. Several organizations have estimated that upwards of five million elders are abused every year.
Common Signs of Elder Abuse
It can sometimes be difficult to tell if elder abuse has taken place, especially if your loved one suffers from a cognitive impairment, which makes it hard for them to communicate, recognize what's happening to them or defend themselves against different forms of abuse. The following are a few signs to keep an eye out for that your loved one might be suffering from elder abuse:
- Signs of physical abuse - You should be very wary of any unexplained signs of injury or if the explanations for their injuries seem suspect. You should be particularly wary if injuries occur regularly. Some of the common signs of physical abuse include bruises, pressure marks, burns, sprains, dislocations and broken bones. Pay attention to the caregiver's actions as well. If they take your loved one to multiple medical facilities to receive treatment or attempt to restrict your ability to visit, it's a sign that there may be physical abuse.
- Signs of sexual abuse - Although this is the last thing you want to think about it, it can and has happened. Signs of sexual abuse include injuries around the patient's private areas, depression, difficulty walking or standing, signs of venereal diseases and inappropriate comments or touching by the caregiver.
- Signs of neglect - The caregiver is obligated to help your loved one with their activities of daily living, which includes eating, dressing, grooming, bathing and moving, to name a few. If your loved one is disabled in any way (such as physically or cognitively), then they need a lot of attention in these areas. Neglect occurs when the caregiver does not properly assist with these tasks. Neglect can occur accidentally as well. For example, if the caregiver is overworked and forgets to tend to a
certain task, such as giving your loved one their medicine or gives them the wrong medicine. Some of the common signs of neglect include dirty clothes, unusual weight loss, a messy home, the lack of necessary medical aids and bedsores.
- Signs of emotional abuse - Emotional abuse can be difficult to identify, especially if your loved one has trouble with communicating. Signs of emotional abuse often include nervous or fearful behavior, withdrawal or apathy or a tense relationship with their caregiver. You can sometimes spot emotional abuse as its happening if you notice the caregiver isolating your loved one or yelling at them.
- Signs of financial exploitation - Financial exploitation is one of the most common forms of elder abuse. This is because seniors who have cognitive impairments are much easier to take advantage of and tend to have more money than younger adults. Signs of financial exploitation include more frequent cash withdrawals, increased credit card use, disappearing money, unusual purchases and unpaid bills (caregivers are often responsible for paying their patient's bills).
The more thoroughly you research the caregiver, the less likely elder abuse is to happen, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't watch out for it. If you do suspect elder abuse, you should call the police or a local adult protective services agency as well as speak to a lawyer specializing in elder abuse cases.
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