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Elder Abuse

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

There is another type of abuse that occurs with horrifying frequency but is often over looked by the medical community and it is referred to as Elder Abuse. It is estimated that 36 million Americans are now 65 years old or older. Each year there are more than one half a million cases of elder abuse reported to the authorities. It is believed that the numbers are greatly underestimated because huge numbers of cases go unreported. It is important to note that the National Institute of Mental Health reports that most elder abuse occurs at the hands of relatives such as adult children and adult grandchildren of the elder person who have care taker responsibility. Therefore, most of the abuse occurs in the home of the elderly person.

It is also important to keep in mind that this article deals only with abuse that occurs at home. There disturbingly large numbers elder abuse that occurs in nursing homes.

According to the AARP (American Association for Retired Persons) there are four types of elder abuse that occur:

1. Physical and Sexual Abuse often appear on the elderly. Too often these are dismissed as accidents resulting from either falling or bruising easily. Besides suspicious bruises appearing one of the symptoms that abuse has occurred is when the elderly person withdraws and becomes silent and depressed. Another symptom is when authorities and social service agencies are prohibited from visiting the elderly in their home there is then strong suspicion that the bruises and marks are not accidental.

2. Emotional and psychological abuse is also prevalent among the elderly. This occurs when family members insult, threaten and socially isolate the individual. This type of abuse also results in withdrawal into depression and hopelessness.

3. Neglect or desertion is defined as the refusal of caregivers (usually family) to provide adequate food, water and medical attention so that the patient becomes dehydrated, loses dangerous amounts of weight and becomes filthy because their needs are not met. In many cases elderly people are left behind in their old neighborhoods and apartment buildings long after family has moved away. The apartment buildings occupied by these long time elderly tenants often do not have adequate heat and running water. According to several studies neglect and desertion are the most frequent types of elder abuse.

4. Financial exploitation is the fourth type of abuse and can occur at the hands of family or strangers who learn how to prey upon what they view as easy victims to be exploited. Ruthless and greedy family members also prey upon their elderly parents and grandparents by convincing them to turn over their money to them, ostensibly so that they can oversee and protect the funds. Too often this becomes an excuse to steal the funds for their own selfish purposes.

With the elderly population increasing in numbers thanks to improved health care and greater longevity the issues of quality of life, Alzheimer’s disease, retirement locations and, finally, elder abuse, are serious issues.

More information is available at an excellent web site called the Center for Elder Abuse and that can be found at the following URL:

www.elderabusecenter.org

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