Elder abuse is a phenomenon that often goes unnoticed in our communities, even in its most concrete form: physical assault and neglect. As terrible as it sounds, violence and cruel, neglectful behavior are very real actions often perpetrated against senior citizens.
While detecting signs of this abuse may seem easy, it can actually more difficult to spot than you might think. One of the first indicators of mistreatment is isolation - by isolating their victims, abusers are able to get away with the crimes they commit. Along with an elderly person's isolation as a clue to possible abuse, there are other ways to tell if this crime is taking place. For physical assault, these include such factors as:
- Unexplained bruises or welts
- Scratches, blisters or pinch marks
- Injuries not matching their explanations
- Torn or bloody undergarments
- Patches of hair missing or bleeding scalp
- Burns from scalding hot water, cigarettes or ropes
- Injuries reflecting the outline of an object, e.g. a belt or hand
Neglect, meanwhile, constitutes the failure to provide necessities of care like assistance in personal hygiene, medical treatment, clothing and shelter, protection from health and safety hazards and prevention of malnutrition or dehydration. Signs of neglect include the following:
- Unkempt or dirty
- Any untreated medical condition
- Malnourished or dehydrated
- Foul smelling
- Living quarters in disarray
At times even if you do find several of these indicators, the victims themselves will be reluctant to come forward from embarrassment or concern or love for the perpetrator, often family members themselves. Those who suffer elder abuse will possibly be confused, withdrawn and hesitant to talk freely about what is happening to them.
If you see signs pointing to elder abuse, report this to law enforcement - the most vulnerable individuals in our communities deserve better.