Elder Abuse Awareness

Published: 3/6/2015

Elder abuse is an indiscriminate crime. Factors such as a person’s socio-economic status, gender, race, ethnicity, educational background or geographic location do not protect a person from abuse.

Elder abuse victims often live in silent desperation, unwilling to seek assistance because they believe their cries for help will go unanswered, or they fear retaliation from their abusers.  Many remain silent to protect abusive family members, or are too embarrassed to admit that they have fallen victim to predators. Some elders, with diminished mental capacity, are unaware they are being abused.  Others simply fear that no one will believe them.

As the elderly population increases, so will the incidence of elder abuse. We must recognize the seriousness of the problem and take steps to prevent it. It may take the courageous intervention of a caring family member, caretaker, neighbor or friend to take action when the victim may be reluctant. With your vigilance, care, and cooperation … elder abuse can be stopped.

There are four general categories of elder abuse: Physical Abuse, Psychological Abuse, Financial Abuse and Neglect.

Physical elder abuse is non-accidental use of force against an elderly person that results in physical pain, injury, or impairment. Such abuse includes not only physical assaults such as hitting or shoving but the inappropriate use of drugs, restraints, or confinement.

In emotional or psychological senior abuse, people speak to or treat elderly persons in ways that cause emotional pain or distress. Verbal forms of emotional elder abuse include intimidation through yelling or threats, humiliation, ridicule, and habitual blaming of the elderly victim.  Nonverbal psychological elder abuse can take the form of ignoring the elderly person; isolating an elder from friends or activities; and terrorizing or menacing the elderly person. 

Financial abuse is the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property, or assets. Examples include but are not limited to cashing checks without authorization or permission; forging an older person’s signature; misusing or stealing an older person’s money or possessions; coercing or deceiving an older person into signing a document (e.g., contracts or a will); and the improper use of conservator ship, guardianship, or power of attorney.

Neglect or abandonment by caregivers is the refusal or failure to fulfill any part of a person’s obligations or duties to an elder. Neglect may also include a refusal or failure by a person who has fiduciary responsibilities to provide care for an elder (e.g., failure to pay for necessary home care service, or the failure on the part of an in-home service provider to provide necessary care). Neglect typically means the refusal or failure to provide and elderly person with such life necessities as food, water, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medicine, comfort, personal safety, and other essentials included as a responsibility or an agreement.

We all have the right to be free from abuse and neglect.  If you suspect an elderly person you know is being victimized, take action to stop it.  Contact your local law enforcement agency at 541-440-4471 or Douglas County Senior Service at 541-440-3580.  If the elder is in a nursing or care home you should also contact the Oregon Long Term Care Ombudsman at 1-800-522-2602.