Elder abuse is one of the most overlooked public health problems in the United States. It is believed that for every one case of elder abuse, neglect, exploitation, or self-neglect reported to authorities, about five more go unreported. Since a victim may not be able to report abuse, it’s up to others to observe the signs and intervene.
Myth #1 – Elder abuse occurs mostly in nursing homes.
Most often happens at home, in every community, regardless of socioeconomic status.
Myth #2 – Strangers and paid caregivers are the perpetrators
Most are abused by a known, trusted person – usually a family member, which sometimes makes detection very difficult.
Myth #3 – The bad guys always get caught.
Criminal prosecutions of abusers are actually the exception rather than the rule because most victims are afraid to tell.
Myth #4 – If there are no physical signs of abuse, there is nothing to worry about.
Neglect is the most common type of abuse. Emotional abuse and financial exploitation happen frequently too. Typical forms of abuse don’t result in obvious outward signs.
Drafting a new will or power of attorney when the victim seems incapable of drafting legal documents, caretaker’s name added to the bank account, frequent checks made out to “cash”, unusual activity in bank account or charge cards
Myth #5 – Caregiver stress causes elder abuse.
Most stressed caregivers do not harm the person they care for. By focusing on caregiver stress as an explanation, we excuse the behavior. Using “stress” as a rationale also shifts the focus to the abuser and away from the victim by evoking a perception that if the older person was just easier to care for, not sick, and not so demanding, the abuse would never occur.
Myth #6 – Elder abuse happens to men and women equally.
Elder abuse happens most often to women. Those with cognitive impairment are at greatest risk of being abused.
If you identify someone at risk call adult protective services
Many families contact geriatric case managers
who can provide an unbiased look at the situation, facilitate family meetings to discuss concerns and provide information about care options or ways to approach the situation.
They can act as an advocate for the older person and help develop a safe plan of care. They work hand in hand with adult protective service caseworkers, police departments and elder law attorneys to ensure the safety of the older person and to coordinate appropriate services.