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Risk factors for elder abuse

Updated February 21, 2017

The National Center on Elder Abuse reports that between one and two million elderly adults have suffered from some form of elder abuse. While cases of elder abuse do occur in nursing homes, most elders are abused in their home or in the home of a family caregiver. Several risk factors can help you identify if elder abuse is happening to someone you know.

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Elder Abuse

Elder abuse happens when a mentally and/or physically frail individual is unable to stand up to physical, emotional, financial, verbal or sexual abuse. Typically elders are abused by family members or friends who are responsible for their care. But sometimes elder abuse does happen in institutionalised settings like nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities.

Types of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Neglect or abandonment, financial exploitation and health-care fraud are also forms of elder abuse. HelpGuide.org reports that over half of all reported elder abuse cases include neglect or abandonment, which involves caregivers failing to perform caregiving tasks.

What to Watch For

Some risk factors to watch for in caregivers include depression, drug or alcohol abuse, lack of support from family or friends and an inability to cope with stress. In addition, the condition and circumstances of the elderly adult can increase your awareness of potential elder abuse situations. For instance, if your loved one has dementia, a history of domestic violence or extreme social isolation where he is often alone with the caregiver, watch for signs of elder abuse.

Reporting Elder Abuse

If you suspect elder abuse, do not let it continue. The safest way to report elder abuse is to consult with a trusted family member or friend and to tell a doctor. Many states and organisations have toll-free hot lines available to call if you think abuse may be occurring.

Know Your Role

Elder abuse happens, but it doesn't need to. If you have elderly parents or loved ones, familiarise yourself with the risk factors surrounding elder abuse. By knowing the signs, you may be able to stop abuse before it becomes a problem. Don't let the fear of family members, friends or medical professionals stop you from doing the right thing.

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About the Author

Cadence Johansen

Cadence Johansen is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about travel, marriage, family relationships, caregiver support, home improvement and money. Johansen has been writing professionally since 2008. She holds a master's degree in family studies from Utah State University.

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