Elder abuse is a pervasive problem that affects older adults worldwide. The mistreatment of older adults, also known as elder abuse, is a growing concern, with statistics suggesting that one in ten older people is abused yearly. However, the actual number of cases will be much higher due to underreporting. Therefore, raising awareness of elder abuse and recognizing its signs is essential, which may not always be obvious. This issue is particularly pertinent in India, where life expectancy has increased to 64+ years, and by 2050, around 20% of the population will be seniors.
Elder abuse can occur in various settings, including homes, senior care homes, hospitals, social settings, and workplaces. It encompasses a wide range of abuse, from obvious forms like physical, verbal, emotional/psychological, financial, and social abuse, to more subtle forms. Physical abuse is more prevalent among less educated and financially weaker sections, while emotional abuse is more common among the upper strata of society. The increasing number of silent sufferings in the world of the elderly highlights the burden of age and the need for immediate action to address elder abuse.
At Anvayaa, we are dedicated to improving seniors’ quality of life and raising awareness of elder abuse through this blog. We aim to provide valuable information and resources to help seniors, families, and caregivers identify and prevent elder abuse. Join us in making a difference in our seniors’ lives by addressing this issue.
Taking a closer look at elder abuse in India:
Due to rapid urbanization and a materialistic society, Indian culture’s traditional value system has disintegrated, leading to the breakdown of joint families. The joint family system was the bedrock of society, where family members supported each other and learned to live in harmony with adjustment and cooperation, imbuing Indian values of respect, tolerance, compassion, and charity. However, the changing value system has led to mistreatment, abuse, isolation, and even abandonment of elders, often seen as a waste of time and money. This societal shift has resulted in a self-centered, disrespectful, and unkind society where maladjusted caregivers take out their frustrations on helpless elders. As a result, India leads Asia regarding elder abuse and exploitation.
Understanding elder abuse types:
Recognizing elder abuse is difficult and reporting it can be even more challenging. Often, we may doubt our instincts and fear being wrong or overreacting. However, if you suspect something is wrong, it is important to trust your gut and act.
Financial abuse or exploitation can be particularly difficult to identify, but some signs to look out for include the following:
- Unusual or excessive spending from the older person’s bank account
- Frequent purchases of unusual items
- Unpaid bills or utilities getting disconnected
- The sudden appearance of new individuals in the older person’s life who receive generous gifts, loans, or other financial benefits.
These are signs of neglectful abuse:
- Dirty or soiled clothing and lack of clean clothes
- Clothing that is inappropriate for the weather
- Poor personal hygiene, such as body odour or unclean hair and nails
- Living conditions that are dirty, cluttered, or hazardous, including fire and safety hazards
- Basic home repairs that are not being made or are needed
- Lack of basic utilities such as working plumbing, heating/cooling, or electricity
Signs of physical abuse can also include:
- Broken bones or fractures
- Sprains or dislocations
- Internal injuries or bleeding
- Injuries that are inconsistent with explanations given for them
- Reluctance to be alone with a certain caregiver or family member
- Fear or anxiety when a certain caregiver or family member is present
- Signs of restraint, such as rope marks on wrists or ankles.
Emotional or psychological abuse towards older adults can take many forms, such as:
- Consistent yelling or intimidating behaviour
- Making threatening remarks or using fear to control them
- Belittling, humiliating, or ridiculing an older person
- Isolating them from their friends or loved ones without any valid reason
- Restricting their participation in activities they enjoy and making them feel helpless
Additional signs of sexual abuse may include:
- Unexplained sexually transmitted infections
- Unexplained difficulty walking or sitting
- Unwillingness or fear of being alone with a particular person
- Sudden changes in behaviour, mood, or personality
- Fear or anxiety around a sexual activity or touch
- Signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) such as nightmares, flashbacks, and avoidance of certain situations or people.
Abandonment is elder abuse, where an older adult is left alone without proper care or support. Unfortunately, this can often take the form of literal abandonment in India, with older adults being left at bus stops or railway stations or even being kicked out of their homes by greedy and heartless relatives who are only interested in their financial gain. This abandonment can leave older adults without support or care, making them vulnerable to physical, emotional, and financial harm.
Some red flags of senior abuse include:
Subtle signs of emotional abuse may include the elderly being hesitant to speak openly, appearing fearful or anxious around certain individuals, or exhibiting sudden behavioural changes. They may also express feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness or have unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches. It is important to watch these signs and act if you suspect any form of abuse. In addition, it is important to recognize that ageing does not automatically mean a decline in physical and mental health, and any sudden changes should be investigated.
Safeguarding our loved ones
Families must prioritize the safety and well-being of their older family members. Staying connected with them through regular visits, calls, or video chats is a great way to identify any red flags or concerns they may have. When choosing a senior living facility or senior care services, it is important to research and learn as much as possible about the facility and staff. Unfortunately, elder abuse can occur even with family members involved in the care, so it is important to remain vigilant.
Professional in-home care services can be a great option for families needing extra support caring for their loved ones. Anvayaa’s professional caregivers can assist with personal care, healthcare management, transportation, and companionship. They can also provide watchful supervision for seniors who are frail or have dementia, which can be a great relief for family caregivers. When hiring a caregiver, it is essential to work with an agency that properly screens, trains, and supervises their caregivers to ensure the safety and well-being of your loved ones.
At Anvayaa senior care services, our caregivers are thoroughly screened, supervised, and trained to meet our clients’ and their families’ unique physical, emotional, and safety needs. For further information about our services, kindly contact your local Anvayaa branch across India and ask for a care consultation.