Elder abuse: A big ugly secret

Print Article

Noyes

Hereís a statistic thatíll chill your bones. Itís estimated that one in 10 Americans age 60 and older has been the victim of elder abuse. Itís difficult to get an accurate count because only about one in 14 cases is reported. The extent of the problem is kept a big ugly secret Ö by the perpetrators who donít want to be found out and by the victims who canít or wonít tell.

Abuse is the intentional or negligent infliction of physical pain, or physical or mental injury. It happens right under our noses, behind closed doors. It happens right here in Idaho, right here in our city and, maybe, right in your neighborhood. Perpetrators are good at hiding their actions and victims are often unable or afraid to tell.

Home is the place where we should feel safe and secure, where people we trust and love care about us. But that isnít always true. Older adults often become more vulnerable as they age and may become targets for physical and psychological abuse, neglect or financial exploitation.

Most elder abuse occurs at home, most victims are women, and most abusers are family members. The abuser is rarely a stranger, but more likely a spouse, son, daughter, grandchild, other family member or care giver, and usually someone the elder knows, trusts and depends on.

You might think that the effects of physical abuse would be obvious, but a twisted arm may leave no mark or a purple bruise can be hidden under clothing. Besides, itís assumed, and sometimes true, that an elderly personís bruises are from a fall or because of thin aging skin. A person being denied food may be assumed to have ailments that cause weight loss.

Why donít the abused victims tell? Many victims wonít admit to being abused because it could get a loved one in trouble or end an important relationship. If an abuser is found guilty, what happens to the vulnerable elder? Some victims may feel shame and even blame themselves. They may be afraid of not being believed and of retaliation from the abuser. Some victims with dementia may not be able to speak out or understand whatís happening.

Some physical abuse leaves obvious marks Ö black eyes, bruises, broken bones, skin tears or open wounds. The abuser may be verbally aggressive, demeaning, critical, and threatening, causing psychological damage. A neglected elder can end up with bed sores, poor hygiene, malnutrition and stress-related symptoms.

Elder abuse is sometimes blamed on care-giving stress. For sure, care giving is stressful and difficult, but stress doesnít inevitably lead to abuse. Care giving is a loving thing to do and thousands across the country are taking excellent care of loved ones, even though it can be stressful. Abuse is about anger, power and control.

How do the abusers hide from discovery? They might always be in the room when someone visits, or have signals that warn the victims of consequences if they tell. The caregiver may refuse to allow visitors, or cut off or monitor all outside contact.

There are signs to watch for in the victim such as a sudden change in behavior, poor personal hygiene, unsanitary conditions, loss of mobility, unexplained injuries, malnutrition, distancing from friends and family, seclusion, depression, self-neglect, or secretive behavior.

What can you do? Keep in touch with the elders you know, visit, and keep your eyes open for questionable conditions. If you suspect someone is in immediate and potentially life-threatening danger, call the police and follow with a call to Adult Protective Services. If you suspect elder abuse but do not believe itís immediately life threatening, you can make a report (even anonymously) to Adult Protective Services at the Area Agency on Aging, 208-667-3179.

ēēē

Jan Noyes is a Long Term Care Ombudsman with the Area Agency on Aging of North Idaho.

Print Article

Read More My Turn

Salmon: Their story of survival hinges on dams

January 25, 2020 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press Shortly after taking office as Idaho Attorney General in January 1983, I took a crash course in the life-and-death struggles of Idahoís anadromous fish. The U.S. Supreme Court set oral argument that ...

Comments

Read More

Local group seeking help dealing with climate impacts

January 24, 2020 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press On Jan. 14, the worldís largest asset manager, BlackRock, announced it was ending investments in coal-fired power plants and would begin asking clients to disclose their climate-related risks. BlackR...

Comments

Read More

OPINION: TONY AMBROSETTI ó Jan. 22, 1973: Two fateful Supreme Court decisions

January 22, 2020 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press As we mark the 47th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, which resulted from the Supreme Courtís apparent discovery of a ďright to privacyĒ in the U.S. Constitution, it may interest readers to kn...

Comments

Read More

Honor King, not conspiracy theorists

January 18, 2020 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press When I read the article in the Coeur díAlene Press on Jan. 8 entitled ďEmbattled Shea a Guest Speaker at 2nd Amendment Rally in CdíA,Ē I was concerned. Why would someone whoís been found to have part...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(208) 664-8176
215 N. Second St
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 83814

©2020 The Coeur d'Alene Press Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X