A Severe Problem Affecting Many Older People

There is a serious problem right here in Knox County and throughout the United States. Although it is getting more attention, most don’t know how critical it is.

3 Stories Highlighting Different Aspects of the Problem

John and Sue have been married for 60 years. John is 83 and Sue is 80. Three years ago, Sue had a stroke which left her paralyzed on the left side and made it difficult for her to get around. John is her only care giver. Lately she needs more and more care. That poses a problem for John. He has back pain regularly. Helping Sue get out of bed and just getting around aggravates his pain. That frustrates him. John has been getting angry more and more frequently. Sometimes he lashes out, striking Sue. There have been noticeable bruises.

George is 80 and lives in a nursing home. He is lonely and depressed. Frequently he presses the “Call” button next to his bed and tells the staff he needs something. What he really wants is someone to talk to. Mandy, one of the CNAs, regularly comes down, closes the door to George’s room and screams at George for always calling for help when he doesn’t need it. She threatens to restrain him in bed if he doesn’t stop.

86 year old Betty has the early signs of dementia. Her grandson has been living with her and has a drug problem. On a monthly basis he takes Betty to the bank where she withdraws $200 from her account. When they get back in the car, her grandson takes the $200 from Betty.

What is this severe problem?

Elder Abuse

It happens more frequently than you may realize. Each of the above cases have been made up. However, they are examples of some of the types of abuse elderly people you know or who live in your neighborhood experience.

The Different Types of Elder Abuse

Here is how the National Council on Elder Abuse defines it:
“Elder abuse is any form of mistreatment that results in harm or loss to an older person. It is generally divided into the following categories:

  • Physical abuse is physical force that results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment. It includes assault, battery, and inappropriate restraint.
  • Sexual abuse is non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an older person.
  • Domestic violence is an escalating pattern of violence by an intimate partner where the violence is used to exercise power and control.
  • Psychological abuse is the willful infliction of mental or emotional anguish by threat, humiliation, or other verbal or nonverbal conduct.
  • Financial abuse is the illegal or improper use of an older person’s funds, property, or resources.
  • Neglect is the failure of a caregiver to fulfill his or her care giving responsibilities. Self-neglect is failure to provide for one’s own essential needs.”

Only 1 in 23 Cases May be Reported

According to the National Council on Aging 1 in 10 Americans 60 and older has been reported to have been abused. It is believed the actual number is much higher. Reports differ on the number of cases that are reported. The most common is that only one in 23 is reported.

It’s Surprising Who the Perpetrators Are

It’s shocking to see those who are guilty of abusing elderly people. Perpetrators can be:

  • Spouses, children. and other family members
  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Home care aides
  • Workers in nursing homes and long term care facilities
  • Lawyers

The sad thing is that those being abused frequently don’t open up about it.

  • If the perpetrator is a family member, they don’t want to get them in trouble.
  • If the abuser is a home health aide or a worker in a nursing home, they may threaten the older person not to say anything.
  • If the person has dementia, they may not realize or remember the abuse is occurring or has occurred.

So how do you protect your older parents, relatives and friends from being abused?

Keep your eyes open for unusual things which may be happening.

If you see someone with bruises on a consistent basis and they say they are constantly walking into things or falling, question it.

If a home care aide is caring for a parent or relative, be observant during your visits. Make sure there is nothing out of the ordinary.

If your parent is in a nursing home or a long-term care facility, take an active role in their care.

  • Observe how they are being cared for.
  • Stagger the times when you visit them. Sometimes go at meal times to see if they are eating and how they are served. At other time go during the morning, afternoon or night.
  • See what’s happening and how they are being cared for.
  • Take part in the meetings with the staff where they plan the care to be given.
  • Keep notes on what you are told and what you observe during your visits.

Remember – You can be an advocate for them and hold the facility accountable for the care they are to provide to your parent.

Abuse can have an impact on the person’s health. Studies have shown abused people have shorter life spans than those who are not abused.

Tennessee is a Mandatory Reporting State

You may not be aware of this. Tennessee is a Mandatory Reporting State. If you see abuse — or even suspect that an adult is being abused, neglected or exploited — you must report it.

To report elder abuse anywhere in Tennessee, contact the Tennessee Department of Human Services Adult Protective Services unit, toll-free at 888-277-8366.

Let’s do all we can to protect our loved ones, friends and neighbors from suffering any type of abuse.