Friday, 10 August 2012

Abuse of the Elderly: Are you aware?

Abuse of the Elderly

All that is born gets old and it is every one‘s responsibility to care and support the elderly. However there are people who take advantage of ageing relations or clients and make their life hell. A friend of mine’s grandmother lost all she had to unscrupulous relations. Be on the lookout for loved ones who might be abused by the cruel and heartless.

What is abuse?

 Abuse is the improper usage or treatment for a bad purpose, often to unfairly or improperly gain benefit.

There are many forms of elder abuse some which include the following,

Physical abuse: acts that cause injury or physical discomfort, e.g. slapping, hitting, shaking, pushing, use of any physical or chemical restraints, administering incorrect or excessive medication.

Psychological/emotional abuse: acts that inflict emotional or mental suffering, e.g. confinement, isolation, verbal abuse, shouting, ignoring, humiliation, intimidation.

Financial abuse/exploitation: misuse of funds and assets or obtaining property or funds without full consent, knowledge or under duress, e.g. extortion, coercion

Active or passive neglect: withholding or not providing the care and basic necessities required for physical and mental well being e.g. food, warmth, clothing, essential medication.

Sexual abuse: sexual behaviour towards a person without their full knowledge and / or consent, e.g. sexual assault, harassment.

Violation of human rights: the denial of fundamental rights - the right to freedom, security, accurate information and not to be subjected to cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment e.g. respect for dignity, personal privacy, freedom of thought, belief opinion, speech, expression and movement.

Systemic abuse: any abuse or violation of human rights suffered by an elderly person or group of elderly persons as a result of an action or inaction by a statutory body or the state.

Withcraft: Elderly black people, mainly women, are sometimes "identified" as witches by others in the community, and along with their hut they are set alight and burnt to death. It is reported that those "identified " as witches often have particularly wrinkled or darkened skins due to age, or are reclusive or independent and successful. It is also reported that a reason to rid an elderly person from the community might be motivated by the wish to obtain the elderly persons' property or possessions.

Below is a list of possible indicators of neglect by caregiver

  • dirt, faecal/urine smell, or other health and safety hazards in elder's living environment
  • rashes, sores, lice on elder
  • elder is inadequately clothed
  • elder is malnourished or dehydrated
  • elder has an untreated medical condition

Possible indicators of self-neglect

  • inability to manage personal finances, e.g. hoarding, squandering, giving money away or failure to pay bills
  • inability to manage activities of daily living, including personal care, shopping, meal preparation, housework etc.
  • suicidal acts, wanderings, refusing medical attention, isolation, substance abuse
  • lack of toilet facilities, utilities or animal infested living quarters (dangerous conditions)
  • rashes, sores, fecal/urine smell, inadequate clothing, malnourished, dehydration etc.
  • changes in intellectual functioning, e.g. confusion, inappropriate or no response, disorientation to time and place, memory failure, incoherence, etc.
  • not keeping medical appointments for serious illness

Possible indicators of abuse from the caregiver

  • the elder may not be given the opportunity to speak for him or herself, or see others, without the presence of the caregiver (suspected abuser)
  • attitudes of indifference or anger toward the dependent person, or the obvious absence of assistance
  • family member or caregiver blames the elder (e.g. accusation that incontinence is a deliberate act)
  • aggressive behaviour (threats, insults, harassment) by caregiver toward the elder
  • previous history of abuse of others
  • problems with alcohol or drugs
  • inappropriate display of affection by the caregiver
  • flirtations, coyness, etc. as possible indicators of inappropriate sexual relationship
  • social isolation of family, or isolation or restriction of activity of the older adult within the family unit by the caregiver
  • conflicting accounts of incidents by family, supporters, or victim
  • unwillingness or reluctance by the caregiver to comply with caregiver to comply with service providers in planning for care and implementation
  • inappropriate or unwarranted defensiveness by caregiver

Be aware of these tell tale signs and remember we will all get old and there is no need for abuse. Don't be part of it and remember we all age.Help, Love and Support the elderly.

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