Time to be aware of elder abuse

Posted July 03, 2011, at 10:10 p.m.

During Elder Abuse Awareness Month, Bangor Area Visiting Nurses encouraged everyone to “Listen, Intervene & Educate.”

It’s difficult to take care of a senior when he or she has many different needs, and it’s difficult to be elderly when age brings with it infirmities and dependence. Both the demands of caregiving and the needs of the elder can create situations in which abuse is more likely to occur, BAVN officials said.

Throughout the world, abuse and neglect of older adults remain underrecognized or treated as an unspoken problem; yet every year, an estimated 2.1 million older Americans are victims of physical, psychological or other forms of abuse and neglect, according to the American Psychological Association’s Office on Aging.

The good news is there is something that can be done about it: Listen, intervene and educate. Knowledge is power in the case of elder abuse, officials said.

Many nonprofessional caregivers — spouses, adult children, other relatives — find taking care of a senior a satisfying and enriching experience. On the flip side, the responsibilities and demands of senior caregiving, which escalate as the senior’s condition deteriorates, can be extremely stressful.

The stress of senior care can lead to mental and physical health problems that make caregivers feel burned-out, impatient and unable to keep from lashing out against the senior in their care. This is when there is a heightened risk of elder abuse. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these characteristics, BAVN officials said, they are warning signs that there is a higher risk of senior abuse:

• Inability to cope with stress (lack of resilience).

• Depression, which is common among caregivers.

• Lack of support from other potential caregivers.

• The caregiver’s perception that taking care of the senior is burdensome and without psychological reward.

• Substance abuse.

Concerned friends and family can intervene or watch for warning signs that might indicate elder abuse. If abuse is suspected, report it. Preventing elder abuse means doing three things:

• Listening to seniors and their caregivers.

• Intervening when you suspect elder abuse.

• Educating others about how to recognize and report elder abuse.

Think logically about day-to-day life and what could trigger mood swings or cause stress. Call and visit often. Offer to stay with the senior so the caregiver can have a break — on a regular basis.

It also can be a good idea to open a dialogue with the seniors in your life about protecting themselves. If seniors are unhappy with the care they’re receiving, whether in their own home or a care facility, they should speak up. By letting them know it is OK to do so, family and friends may be surprised what they hear.

Encourage an open dialogue about their living situation and care.

For information, visit http://www.easternmainehomecare.org. Community members may sign up for an eNewsletter on monthly health tips.

 

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