Aging is mandatory part of life and it affects every person who live longer. The world is experiencing growth in the number of older persons in their population. When we imagine our parents as elders, we may not fully comprehend the extent to which their aging will affect them or us. Our parents have cared for of us, provided all the necessities like food, housing, and education.
When our parents get older the roles reverse, and our parents are the ones who need our care, comfort and provision. Most of the people want to be there for their parents in their old age but there are many who in this employment choked world have to look out for their livelihood and better avenues and hence leave their parents who may suffer from “empty nest syndrome”.
Even for those children who live with their aging parents, conflict is to a large extent normal between them at some stages of life and this conflict may increase the risk of elderly abuse.
Elder abuse is any action or inaction that harms, endangers, or causes distress to a person over the age of 60 or 65 and is done intentionally by someone who is known to the victim and in a position of trust.
Elder Abuse is a dark reality of modern world which exists within the four walls and confines of one’s home. Worldwide, one in 10 older adults experience some form of abuse every month but it is very unfortunate that only one in 24 cases are being reported so what we see is just a tip of the iceberg. Forty percent of cases occur when adult children victimize their parents. Shockingly, in 2014, half of India’s elderly (50%) surveyed reported experiencing abuse. 77% lived with their families. The figures can be more threatening now.
Types of Elder Abuse
Financial exploitation or financial abuse is any intentional act in which a perpetrator improperly gets financial benefits at the expense of a victim's livelihood or well-being. This involves scams, fraud, theft, or improper use of a senior's money, property, or other valuable resources and also involves claims that seniors gave them money or hand over control of their assets but without the knowledge of their elderly.
Verbal abuse: When the perpetrators use abusive language against the elderly
Neglect: When an elderly is deprived of essential necessities like food, water, medical treatment, proper clothing, or a safe, clean, and comfortable living environment. Adults, children do this intentionally as a way to exert power on their elderly parents. But one thing should be also kept in mind that neglect can also happen unintentionally as a result of caregiving failures by their children.
Emotional abuse: When perpetrators ridicule, humiliate, blame, yell at, or threaten their elderly. Or when the perpetrators holding back their emotion for elderly. This type of abuse affects drastically the mental health of the patient that is why this abuse is also called as psychological abuse.
Physical abuse: When the perpetrators cause willful infliction of bodily pain or injury like pushing, slapping, punching, choking, kicking, pulling hair, and burning to the elderly or when the perpetrators restrain elderly.
Sexual abuse: Some seniors are raped, molested, or forced to participate in activities of a sexual nature without their consent.
Abandonment: When the perpetrators intentionally leave their elderly who depend on their care for longer periods of time. Abandonment can even lead to premature death.
Rights abuse: Some seniors are denied of their basic legal rights.
Indicators of Elder abuses
We need to look for following indicators which may not necessarily mean elderly abuse but raise the suspicion for the same.
• Missing bank statements, unnecessarily bank transactions.
• Suspicious legal documents related to assets of elderly.
• When you see an elderly with sudden, rapid weight loss without any chronic illness.
• When you see an elderly with loss of appetite.
• When you see an elderly Dehydrated.
• When you see an elderly wearing dirty or inappropriate clothes.
• When you see an elderly having frequent skin rashes, untreated injuries, bedsores, bruises, abrasion wrists, arms, ankles, legs, or torso etc.
• When you see an elderly with lack of assistive devices.
• When you see an elderly missing or broken eyeglasses, dentures, or hearing aids.
• When you see an elderly with heightened fear or agitation when around a particular person.
• When you see an elderly new onset or worsening depression or social anxiety.
• When you see an elderly with significant personality changes.
• When you see an elderly with strange behaviors like rocking back and forth, sucking a thumb, or biting oneself.
• When you see an elderly with cigarette burns or other unexplainable burns.
• When you see an elderly with frequent sprains or bone fractures.
• When you see an elderly with unusual bleeding.
• When you see an elderly with strange hair loss in just one small part of the head.
• When you see an elderly with frequent hospitalizations for the same types of injury.
• When you see an elderly with changing stories or excuses that don't make sense.
• When you see an elderly with pain, irritation, or unusual bleeding in the buttocks or genital area.
• When an elderly has some chronic illness or disability.
• When an elderly has dementia.
• When an elderly has depression or other mental health issues.
• When an elderly has loneliness or social isolation.
• When an elderly has poor relationships with family members.
• When an elderly has lack of cultural or community support.
• When a perpetrator is suffering from substance abuse.
• When there is an extra challenging for caregivers.
• Poor financial or technological literacy.
• When a perpetrator has low income.
• When an elderly has valuable assets.
How Can Elder Abuse Be Prevented
• Awareness: Increased awareness of this problem is essential.
• Balanced Diet: Eating balanced diet, more of vegetables, fruits and fluids and less of carbohydrates and fats.
• Connection: stay connected with friends and family and interact with your community in order to stay informed, and empowered.
• Devote to social causes and almighty: encourage and facilitate your elderly to participate in such activities.
• Exercise: Regular walk and age and medical fitness appropriate exercise is necessary to maintain good mental and physical health.
• Find help: from a family doctor, counsellor or mental health expert.
• Get accommodated and accept mood swings: Children should accept and accommodate to mood swings in their elderly parents.
• Help & health checkups: Elderly people should ask for help if they are being abused and should go through regular checkups, Seek counseling or therapy for relationship troubles. They should regularly follow their treating doctors.
• Inform, involve and seek help from legal cell: Elderly should seek help from legal system in case of abuse, neglect or maltreatment.
What to do when we see or suspect Elderly Abuse
• Trust what you're seeing or feeling.
• Evaluate the level of danger
• Take steps to ensure your safety or of the alleged victim if there is an immediate danger to life.
• Help relieve the immediate effects of emotional trauma.
• Make arrangements for any necessary services, whether legal, financial, social, or medical in nature.
Elder abuse is a serious problem that can have harmful effects on victims. The goal for elder abuse prevention is to stop it from happening in the first place. It is essential for the health care professionals, religious leaders, community leaders, mass media to make people aware about this dreadful evil in society and apprise them regarding the preventive measures.