When the time comes that an aging family member needs full-time care, or more care than he or she is receiving, most eyes turn to a daughter or a son, or depending on the circumstances, a grandchild. Often, employment prevents such loved ones from stepping up and give of their time. But some can if they have flexible jobs and can adjust their schedules.
Good news, right?
Wrong, according to HealthinAging.org.
“Don’t assume that a loved one couldn’t possibly be abusing an older adult,” the organization’s Web site states. “Ninety percent of abusers are, in fact, family members.”
Reports of assisted-living facilities that are under-budgeted and under-staffed, and nursing homes with squalid conditions might capture the headlines, but the real story is that the abused lie hidden behind closed doors.
Why do such horrible crimes go unreported?
“Victims of elder abuse and neglect may feel ashamed of their abusive experiences,” HealthinAging.org explains. “Those who consider reporting abuse often choose not to because, in the majority of cases, they are abused by a family member, loved one, or trusted caregiver.”
Often, the abused are fearful to tell the truth because they have been threatened. Also, elders can be led to believe they cause the abuse, and it is their fault.
“Caregiver stress is a significant risk factor for abuse and neglect,” reports the American Psychological Association in a guide titled “Elder Abuse and Neglect: In Search of Solutions.” “When the demands of daily care for an older person are thrust onto caregivers who have not been given training or information about how to balance the needs of the older person with their own needs, they frequently experience intense frustration and anger that can lead to a range of abusive behaviors.”
More than half of family members who abuse their elders are adult children. Of those, 52 percent are men, and the remaining 48 percent are women. It is imperative that elder abuse, when identified, be brought to the attention of the proper authorities. Someone’s livelihood – or life – is in jeopardy.
“As we continue to educate others and bring this issue to light, there’s more hope for increased funding to victims and their families, research on prevention and intervention methods, and specific training for each population and need,” the nonprofit Ageless Alliance says.
For information about how to report elder abuse, click here.