In my last article, we defined what elders abuse is. This article will cover some of the signs and symptoms of the abuse.
There are two major signs to look for when you suspect elder abuse. Often times the abuser and the elder will argue or there is a noticeable tension between them. The other is a change in demeanor or personality of the elderly person. If you see one of these happening, talk to the elderly person when the suspected abuser is out of the room and can’t hear you. Ask questions but don’t demand them in an angry tone of fashion. This will make the person think that you are going to abuse them as well. They will lash out against you or clam up and not talk at all. You want to stop it not perpetuate it.
Physical abuse of an elder may be easiest to detect. Unexplained bruises, burns, and scratches may be apparent. Bite marks are very rare on an elderly person unless they have an animal but obvious human teeth marks on the skin should never occur. Look for marks on the skin that may look like rope or other type of restraining device. A sudden refusal by the caregiver to let you visit with the elderly person may also be a sure sign that something is wrong. If an elderly person complains to you of physical abuse by a caregiver, act immediately. You may save their life.
Emotional abuse may be a little more difficult to determine unless you are with the elderly person a lot. A change in behaviors is the most apparent. They will usually act depressed, withdrawn, or apathetic. The caregiver will demean, insult, and humiliate the elderly person in front of you. Sometimes the elderly person may complain to you about what the caregiver says to you. Again, act immediately if this happens. Emotional abuse sometimes leads to physical abuse.
Neglect of an elderly person may be easily spotted as well. Foul odors in their house or living spaces, malnutrition, dehydration, signs of physical weakness, body odor, not enough clothing for the weather conditions, house or living area in disarray, and untreated medical conditions are a few. Sexual abuse may be a little harder to detect unless you help the person with hygiene or changing clothes. Be aware of an odd bruising around the breast and/or genital areas, unexplained vaginal and anal bleeding, blood in the undergarments or back side of clothing. Often times the elderly person may tell you what happened.
If you have access to an elderly persons financial things, keep an eye on where their money is and where it goes. Help them keep accurate records of bill payments and shopping trips. Be aware of any new “friendships” they have especially if the person is significantly younger then the elderly person. Also, be aware of how much medication the person is on. Sometimes there are doctors out there that will take advantage of our elderly just to get kick backs from Medicare or pharmaceutical companies.
In upcoming articles we will discuss some causes of elder abuse, prevention and reporting abuse.