June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Many Canadians are aware that elder abuse exists, but we can have trouble identifying the signs of abuse. Often seniors can be embarrassed by their situation, ashamed or confused. If the abuse is emotional, they can feel incompetent and incapable.
It is important to take the time to recognize signs of abuse and take action to address it immediately. Here are some typical signs of elder abuse.
Physical abuse: When an older adult you know has bruises, even broken bones, that cannot be logically explained this could be a sign of abuse
Psychological and emotional abuse: If a senior becomes withdrawn or depressed, spend some time to understand why. There are many reasons for this change in mental health, including emotional abuse by a caregiver.
Financial abuse: When the adult children, or hired caregivers, pressure a senior to give them access to their bank accounts, or to change their will, the senior may be experiencing financial abuse.
Verbal abuse: Belittling or threatening language is a form of emotional abuse
Visible signs of neglect: An older adult who has poor hygiene, is not receiving the right medication, is in soiled clothes or inappropriate clothes for the weather, or appears undernourished, they are likely experiencing neglect.
Imposed isolation: If a caregiver limits or denies access to the elder in their care or does not let the elder spend time alone with his or her family this can be a sign of an abusive, controlling caregiver relationship.
If you see any of these signs, raise your concerns with the elder, with one of their trusted family members or friends, and if the situation is serious, contact the authorities.
If you are being abused, or know of someone who is, reach out to a health professional or social worker who can help you with the best approach to resolving the situation. Here are some government resources to help you.