Abuse Of Older Adults
If you are having any symptoms or have any questions, please call 811 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day.
WHAT IS ABUSE OF OLDER OR DEPENDENT ADULTS?
Every year millions of older adults and adults who are dependent on others for their care are abused or neglected. It can happen in the adult’s own home, in someone else’s home, or in a hospital or nursing facility. A family member, friend, or paid caregiver may be the one who is the abuser.
There are many kinds of abuse. More than one kind of abuse can happen at the same time.
Physical neglect is the type of abuse that happens most often. Neglect is when the caregiver does not provide needed food, housing, clothes, dentures, or medical care.
Physical abuse is an injury to the body. Abuse may include hitting, kicking, shaking, biting, throwing, stabbing, or choking. It may include beating the person with objects like a bat or cord or burning them with hot water, cigarettes, or a stove.
Mental and emotional abuse includes swearing or threatening to hit the person; insulting, making fun, or calling the person names; forcing them to do shameful or humiliating acts; hurting a person’s pets or destroying the person’s property, or keeping them locked up and away from other people.
Sexual abuse includes forcing the person to have sex or hurting their breasts or genitals.
Economic abuse may include not letting the person have money or a bank account; or stealing from them.
Abuse of personal rights happens when adults are not allowed to make their own decisions even though they are able to do so. For example, not being allowed to read their own mail, or not being allowed to go where they want, or have any privacy.
Abandonment is when the caregiver goes away for a long time and does not arrange for someone else to take care of the person who needs care.
WHAT INCREASES THE RISK OF ABUSE?
Abuse is more likely when:
- The adult has physical or intellectual disabilities
- The adult has personality or behavioral problems.
- The adult is over the age of 80 or is female.
- Caregivers are angry, frustrated, tired, unhappy, or they expect too much.
- Caregivers were themselves abused as children.
- Caregivers use drugs or alcohol, are depressed or anxious, or have trouble controlling their own behavior.
- Caregivers are unemployed, homeless, or living in poverty, or resent depending on the abused adult for housing, money, or childcare.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS?
- Bruises, broken bones, or burns
- Unexplained weight loss
- Fear around the caregiver
- Not being physically clean
- Complaints of tooth pain
- Withdrawing from usual social activities
- Sudden changes in bank accounts or not being able to afford medicines
- Neighbors may hear screaming, crying, or fighting in the person’s home.
Adults often do not report abuse. They may:
- Be ashamed of what is happening
- Want to protect the abuser if that person is their spouse, child, or grandchild
Be afraid the abuser will get back at them
- Be afraid of being moved to a nursing facility
- Worry that no one will believe them
- Be unaware that the way they are treated is a form of abuse
- Be unable to get help, such as not having a phone
HOW CAN I HELP PREVENT ABUSE OF OLDER ADULTS?
If you think someone is being abused, get help right away. The situation could get a lot worse if the abuse is not reported. It is better to be wrong than to have someone continue to suffer.
IF YOU KNOW OR SUSPECT AN ADULT IS IN NEED OF PROTECTION, CALL ADULT PROTECTION SERVICES AT 1-800-225-7225.
The Adult protection services can provide assistance.
The Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness administers Adult Protection Services. About 75% of persons assisted under the Act are seniors. More information on Adult Protection Services and Senior Abuse can be found at http://novascotia.ca/dhw/ccs/protecting-vulnerable-adults.asp
You can make a difference and help stop the suffering of a neglected or abused older or dependent adult.