Healthy Living Blog – Elder Abuse: The Ugly Side of Caregiving
For National Family Caregivers Month, we are also highlighting a negative part of caregiving: elder abuse. When caregivers or another trusted person intentionally harms an older adult in their care, it is called elder abuse. It can include: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, financial abuse, neglect, and abandonment. It’s important to raise awareness about this serious problem, especially as the older adult population continues to grow in the U.S.
How common is elder abuse in the U.S.?
Sadly, elder abuse is common:
- About 1 in 10 people (10%) aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse.
- It’s estimated that about 5 million older adults are abused each year. This number may be higher because of a lack of reporting.
Risk factors for elder abuse
Older adults who are socially isolated and mentally impaired (have dementia or Alzheimer’s) are more at risk of experiencing elder abuse. Also, elder abuse happens to older adults with other disabilities.
Risk factors for perpetration (the abuser):
- Not prepared or don’t have enough training for caregiving responsibilities
- Had to begin caregiving at a young age
- Have poor coping skills to deal with stress
- Have been exposed to abuse as a child
- High emotional and financial dependence on an older adult
- Lack of a social support system
- Have had disruptive behavior in the past
The effects of elder abuse
- Older adults who have been abused have a 300% higher risk of death than those who have not been abused.
- Overall, elder abuse though financial exploitation is the most reported form of abuse.
How to prevent elder abuse
Caregivers, who may be family or professionals, and older adults need to learn about elder abuse and its warning signs. Older adults can prevent elder abuse themselves by:
- Taking care of your health.
- Planning for your own future. This includes writing a living will with the help of a lawyer to make your own health care choices.
- Staying social. Be involved with your community and stay connected with your family and friends. This helps to reduce social isolation.
- Protecting your personal information. This includes opening your own mail, never giving your information over the phone, and using direct deposit for your checks.
- Having your own phone. This helps to keep your independence.
- Knowing your rights! You have the right to voice your concerns with a family caregiver. Just because they are family doesn’t mean they can mistreat you.
Have questions or curious to learn more? Please reach out to our Health Center and make an appointment to speak with a doctor. AACI provides services in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, and many other languages. Call (408) 975-2763 to schedule your appointment today!