In this lesson, we will examine the different types of elder abuse as well as some basic stats on the issue. Often related to abuse is the idea of caregiver burnout, which will also be discussed.
Elder Abuse: Definition
Elder abuse is an intentional or negligent act by an individual that causes harm or serious risk of harm to an older adult. The actual age that this applies to can vary by state, but usually starts between the ages of 50 and 65. The definition also covers intentional and negligent behaviors, which is important because there are many specific ways a person, such as a caregiver, child or relative, can abuse an elderly person.
Let's take a look at the specific ways that people who are supposed to be taking care of others can epically fail. Then we need to discuss the idea of what caregiver burden is.
There are many types of specific elder abuse. Some are more common than others. And while each one is horrendous on its own, they don't always come by themselves. Sometimes a person will be abusive in more than one way, and multiple forms of abuse can occur simultaneously.
Physical abuse is the causing of physical pain or injury. Often resulting due to frustration in dealing with the elderly, an individual lashes out. It can include physical and chemical restraints. This includes the obvious slapping, striking and pinching. If the elderly are being particularly obstinate or the caregiver is particularly lazy or frustrated, the use of sedatives or other means to keep an individual out of the way also constitutes abuse.
Sexual abuse is non-consensual sexual contact. Maybe it's just me, but this one always surprises me because it is so repulsive. Abuse in and of itself is a pretty unforgivable act. But rape and sexual abuse are those things that are worse. They take the act of abuse to the next level of willfulness. Needless to say, both physical and sexual abuse can cause mood related problems, like depression, anxiety, paranoia and fear, as well as physical handicaps from the act itself.
Neglect is the failure of those responsible for caregiving to provide food, shelter, health care and protection. The wording here is a little funny because it is not always a caregiver who neglects the elderly. If a son or daughter had some responsibility in providing food or shelter and failed to provide or failed to take action when they noticed there was insufficiencies, then this individual is guilty of neglect. Like physical and sexual abuse, neglect can have profound mood and physical effects.
Exploitation is the taking, misuse or concealment of funds, property or assets of a senior for the benefit of someone else. This type of abuse is particularly difficult to detect, and it may also be far more rampant than we think. For example, if a granddaughter is taking care of grandparent, is she justified in taking money because she is doing something like this as a job? Some situations aren't always that easy to figure out. Additionally, unless the elderly is up to date on their finances, it may take a great deal of time to detect the missing funds.
Emotional abuse is the infliction of mental pain or distress on an elderly person. This can be done in verbal ways, such as intimidating or threatening the elderly person. These can also be done in nonverbal ways, such as humiliating an elderly person. This type of abuse can have profound mood issues attached to them, such as depression, anger and anxiety, without the easy to detect physical markings.
Abandonment is the desertion of an elderly individual after assuming responsibility of care. Taking on the responsibility to care for another person is not something that should be taken lightly; it is like suddenly having a very large child or adolescent in some cases. But the feelings of guilt and responsibility override common sense and acknowledging one's limit. After taking responsibility, the individual is overwhelmed, and the only escape they can see is abandoning the individual at a care facility, another person's home or in some cases a hospital.
In 2010, there was almost 6,000,000 cases of elder abuse. This translates to 9.5% of the elderly population with an active abuse case in 2010. There is a disproportionate number of female victims (67.3%) and European-American (66.4%), as opposed to African-American (18.7%) and Hispanic (10.4%).
The types of abuse reported are mostly neglect (58.5%). Physical abuse occurs in 15.7% of cases and financial exploitation is found in 12.3% of cases. Emotional abuse occurs in 7.3% and sexual abuse occurs in .04% of cases. It is an unfortunate finding that 36% of nursing homes have been in violation of elder abuse laws in 2010.
Taking care of children is very difficult. Taking care of a full-grown adult is probably even more difficult, particularly if it's your parents. Caregiver burnout is an accumulation of chronic stress resulting in negative psychological, behavioral and physiological effects. The constant act of taking care of someone else wears down a person and leaves them more easily frustrated, more prone to abuses we just mentioned and overall just burnt out.
Many caregivers often go it alone, either due to financial reasons or believing they can do it themselves. They can be spouses taking care of an ailing husband or wife, a child taking care of a parent, a grandchild taking care of a grandparent or even a professional paid to take care of someone. The intense, often lonely and typically unpredictable work leads to an eventual break down of the caregiver. Before it reaches that point, someone should step in or the caregiver should find a way to step out. Burnout can be mitigated or staved off by staying in contact with others, recognizing burnout and scheduling break times.
Elder abuse is any intentional or negligent act by an individual that causes harm or serious risk of harm to an older adult. It can occur from many sources, but one notable one is due to caregiver burnout, which is an accumulation of chronic stress resulting in negative psychological, behavioral and physiological effects. Abuse is typically one or more of the following:
- Physical abuse: The causing of physical pain or injury
- Sexual abuse: Non-consensual sexual contact
- Neglect: The failure of those responsible for caregiving to provide food, shelter, health care and protection
- Exploitation: The taking, misuse or concealment of funds, property or assets of a senior for the benefit of someone else
- Emotional Abuse: The infliction of mental pain or distress on an elderly person
- Abandonment: The desertion of an elderly individual after assuming responsibility of care
Following this lesson, you should have the ability to:
- Define elder abuse and caregiver burnout
- Describe the specific types of elder abuse
- Explain how caregiver burnout occurs and ways to prevent it
- Identify recent trends in the prevalence of elder abuse