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Elder Abuse: Recognition, Prevention, and Response

When we care for elders, our goal is for them to achieve their holistic well-being — enabling an independent and dignified life– helping them nurture their hobbies, lending a compassionate ear, acting with empathy, and creating an environment conducive to their mental and physical comfort, and being vigilant at all times. 

Acts of violation and abuse include neglectful treatment and physical, emotional, and financial harm in elders; the vigilant approach extends to being aware and proactive about preventing abuse in our seniors; this form of abuse is often an intentional act that includes neglect or even deliberate actions leading to harm or the risk of trauma or injury to elders who are above the age of 60. Many seniors living alone are vulnerable to abuse from many sources: strangers, people in the neighborhood who see them as easy targets, and even staff at home who are supposed to take care of them.

Abuse In Elders Extends Beyond Physical Abuse:

There are instances of physical injury, verbal abuse, and financial, psychological, and sexual abuse by those who elders might trust.

  1. Physical abuse: Intentional use of physical force like hitting, kicking, pushing, slapping, and even burning is physical abuse. Seniors experience distress, impairment, illness, pain, and injury as a result of such activities. 
  2. Neglect involves failing to provide an older adult with necessities, including food, water, shelter, clothing, hygiene, and medical care. 
  3. Financial abuse occurs when someone unlawfully utilizes an elder’s money, benefits, belongings, property, or assets for their benefit rather than the older adult’s well-being. 
  4. Emotional abuse encompasses verbal or nonverbal behaviors that can isolate seniors and cause mental anguish, fear, and distress. It can be humiliating with disrespect, threats, and harassment.

Responding to Suspected Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is a complex subject with intricate dynamics, and addressing it is crucial to protect and safeguard the dignity and well-being of our seniors; we must address it with a comprehensive strategy that requires detection, proactive prevention, and intervention.

At Samarth, our counselors and caregivers receive training in comprehending the complexity and practice increased awareness to uncover underlying abuse in sensitive situations.

HelpAge India’s nationwide study ‘Bridge the Gap: Understanding Elder Needs (2022)’ states that 59% of the elderly population in India perceive abuse as widespread. Furthermore– nearly 46% of elders are unaware of any available mechanisms to address such abuse.

Repercussions of Elder Abuse / Impact of Elder Abuse

Victims are often fearful and anxious; seniors may be unsure of others and might exhibit problems with trust. Many seniors deal with injuries like welts, cuts, scratches, and even welts; elders may often face more serious issues that can cause lasting disabilities– like head injuries, broken bones, constant physical pain, and soreness. 

Physical injuries can also lead to premature death and make existing health problems worse.

How Does Samarth Prevent Elder Abuse?

Samarth care team members are watchful of the factors that put people at risk or protect them from violence. They are trained and equipped to understand that a number of factors may increase or decrease the risk of perpetrating or experiencing elder abuse. They educate themselves and others about how to recognize and report elder abuse. We have come across and addressed several cases where home staff have subjected elderly living alone or dealing with dementia and mental conditions to physical, mental and financial abuse. 

  • Samarth caregivers pay attention and listen to older adults to understand their challenges and provide support.
  • Samarth caregivers are vigilant and learn how the signs of elder abuse differ from the normal aging process.
  • Samarth regularly checks in on older adults, especially those with few friends and family members.
  • Samarth supports over-burdened caregivers with assistance from friends, family, or local relief care groups and counseling outlets intended to promote emotional well-being.

Sexual abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, and neglect are all forms of mistreatment that older adults may experience; as a society we must create greater awareness to address the increase in elder abuse and help such that elderly are safeguarded and empowered to lead lives of dignity and safety.

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