Abuse 101


Abuse, child, elder, or of spouse, any of this is despicable and should be reported to the proper authorities immediately.

Indications of physical/emotional abuse are not always visible to the passerby or care giver. There are many factors beyond cuts, bruises, welts or burns to be considered. Physical pain or injury inflicted willfully upon an elder is abuse. Not only elder care givers/providers but friends or family can and do participate in this; restraint upon the elders activities in any unreasonable manner and /or deprivation of daily needs all are clear signs of elder neglect or abuse. ..

Any un-cared for injury, significant weight loss, dehydration, malnutrition unkempt clothing or bedding is cause for concern; this being in a public licensed facility or in a home where someone is coming in or living in, to provide care. There is a fine line here to make determination between neglect and abuse..

Emotional abuse constitutes verbal assault, instilling fear, intimidating, threatening or isolation. Some elders will keep these things from the care giver if possible. It is the same with physical injury, they can be ashamed and blame themselves for the occurrences of abuse, therefore attempt to hide the facts.

WE ARE NOT TALKING OF CASES WHERE THE ELDER REFUSES TREATMENT OR CARE! Also to be noted, each and every case is different.

The definition of Financial Abuse: the theft or misuse of an elder’s money or property by anyone in a trusting position constitutes abuse. This is a tough one also because if the perpetrator is the care giver or family provider they are not going to volunteer any information regarding bank books or safety deposit boxes. Watch for concern on the part of the elder regarding their belongings or money. If they do not appear to have what they need for their personal care, lack of food or clothing or items that just seem to sprout legs and are never seen again. Noticeable changes in day to day living; for example if the senior is fond of a certain food or fresh flowers that are usually very evident and this suddenly ceases, candy, reading material disappear rapidly. This may seem minor but it would indicate that someone is overstepping their bounds. If small rather inconsequential items come up missing beware of the valuables.

Here again the elder may not feel comfortable in talking about these things. This can be from intimidation, threats or a feeling of ineptness. The entire abuse scenario is very sensitive.

Self-Neglect is the inability or failure through inattention or dissipation. Many elders are unable to determine that they are not taking proper care of themselves or that they have become incapable of dealing with the business of everyday life including household management……..personal care, shopping, meal preparation.

They fail to keep medical appointments, wandering the neighborhood, isolation and even substance abuse. A noticeable change in intellectual functioning, confusion, lack of response, memory failures and disorientation. All dangerous to the elder and at times those trying to provide for them.

There are no positive or pat answers here. Abuse can occur in the most expensive and reputable nursing facility. It happens in the home of the family, in private elder facilities.

The guidelines to a good nursing home read a lot like the guidelines to a good day care center. You need to know what to look for and be aware of the best way to monitor the facility.

Look, listen and smell. Wander about the halls, check into rooms randomly and talk to the residents. It is not difficult to sense if they are happy or miserable. (Remember there are always those few who wouldn’t be happy with ANYTHING!)

Observe the behavior of the staff, nurses and aides. Do they mingle and visit with the residents and treat them like real people instead of has-been morons.

Make it a point to be there at different meals and watch to see how they are ALL treated.

How quickly are ‘call lights’ responded to? Be aware of safety factors such as obstacles in the hall ways to obstruct or hinder easy passage by wheelchairs /walkers.

Be aware of residents in restraints; this is something that you do NOT want to see or at least not to any extent.

If you choose a facility visit often. Residents who have family that come in unannounced and frequently tend to get better treatment than those who have no one. “The squeaky wheel is the one that gets the grease”. (Quote author unknown).


Barbara Gould will concentrate on Senior Citizen Issues in barbsbylines.diaryland.com. She published a book of poetry, “Weird Old Woman Down The Road and Other Minor Observations in 1996. Poetry and short stories portray many facets of her versatile lifestyle. Barb had a mid-life career in Early Childhood Education and Development, owned and operated her own “on site” daycare and preschool. After retiring from that she worked one year as a nanny then served five years as a volunteer with the Senior Companion Program. Several years ago she married a much younger man and is now officially retired. Her days are spent writing, caring for her home, pets and husband.

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