Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation: Protect yourself or your loved one

The elderly often have to rely on others to meet their most basic needs. In some cases, the ones they rely on don't have their best interests in mind. Statistics tell us that about 9.5% of the elderly population is abused every year. One out of every 14 cases occurs domestically, usually within the victims homes, but abuse also occurs in nursing homes and other facilities.

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Elder abuse is not just physical. It can include neglect and financial exploitation as well as physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. Physical Abuse is defined as the use of physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment. This can happen even with good intentions.  For example, we have seen family members who force their elderly mother into the tub, because she has dementia and would not cooperate, causing minor injuries. When confronted, the family stated that they were just doing what the nursing home did.  This is often how physical abuse occurs. Psychological Abuse is defined as the infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts. What is often simple family conflict can easily get out of control and lead to an elderly family member being psychologically abused. Financial Abuse or exploitation is defined as the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property, or assets.  Family members, neighbors, friends, hired caregivers, or anyone who is particularly close to an elderly person can manipulate them for personal gain. Neglect is defined as the refusal or failure to fulfill any part of a person’s obligations to an elder, or the failure of an in-home service provider to provide necessary care. Being a caregiver is a hard and stressful job. Instead of seeking the help that is needed, many people simply ignore the problem, resulting in abuse.

We all have the right to be free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The types of abuse discussed above could happen to any of our community’s seniors. If you suspect any form of elderly abuse, it is important for you to report it. Without intervention, abuse almost always escalates. Because victims are often reluctant to report abuse, a person’s safety may depend on you recognizing and reporting it. It is far better to report a suspicion and be wrong, than to remain quiet while abuse occurs. It is important to know that more then two-thirds of elder abuse perpetrators are family members of the victims or close family friends, typically serving in the role of a caregiver. Elder abuse can be stopped, but only if it is reported.

If you or a loved one need homecare assistance, we recommend using a licensed agency rather than hiring privately. Homecare agencies must conduct criminal background checks, and BEAS  (Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services) registry checks. The BEAS registry is a database containing information on founded reports of abuse, neglect or exploitation of incapacitated adults by a paid or volunteer caregiver, guardian or agent. There are also individuals with a clear criminal background check who are in the BEAS registry. The NH BEAS registry can be reached at (603) 271-3269. Also, keep in mind, only criminals who get reported and charged have criminal records. Some homecare agencies and nursing facilities conduct pre-hire personality tests. These tests help determine if an applicant has a tendency toward certain types of crime or questionable behavior. We recommend using an agency that uses CQA (Caregiver Quality Assurance) www.selectacaregiver.com.