Elder abuse occurs all too often and comes in many forms. While it may seem unfathomable, abusers can be the ones we rely on the most to take care of our beloved elders during the time in their adult lives in which they may be the most vulnerable. Although nothing can be done to undo the harm caused by elder abuse, family members can look out for the signs of its effects to immediately recognize and end the abuse.
According to statistics from 2011, over 260,000 older adults in New York State suffered from some type of elder abuse in just that year alone. In 2016, the state Office of Child and Family Services released a study that estimated financial exploitation of elders in New York costs a total of $1.5 billion a year. Another study looking into the issue estimated the national cost of elder abuse and exploitation at $36.5 billion per year.
For whatever reason, only an estimated one in 22 instances of elder abuse is reported. Many experts believe that one main reason may be this as many as nine in 10 times, that abuse is committed by family member and the victim may not want any legal or familial trouble for someone they otherwise love and care for. No matter the situation, family members need to convey to their elders that revealing the abuse is the way to end it.
A major sign of elder abuse is the person becoming more isolated from those around them. This can include not doing the things, going to the places, or seeing the people they once did before the abuse began to take place. Becoming anxious or agitated when certain individuals are around is another sign there may be trouble, pointing to that person in question being the source of the abusing behavior. Any bruises, marks, or broken bones should be an immediate sign that your loved one is in trouble and should be addressed right away.
When abuse is discovered, it is important to reinforce to the elder that it is not his or her fault the abuse took place. Many elders keep the fact that they are being abused from their family members out of fear or humiliation. Removing the victim from the situation, whether that be a nursing home or care of a relative, should be a top priority. In some situations, that may require legal action like gaining a guardianship over the elder if he or she is not able to make those decisions on their behalf.