This New Dawn

  Sexual Abuse Survivor/Author Laurel Hall   “With our growing elderly population the probability for elder abuse increases.  The abuser can be any of a number of people that the older person depends on for his health and well-being:  spouse or partner, brother, sister, child, even a friend, or neighbor.  Such abuse affects the entire existence of the elder.   Abuse can be subtle, and difficult to detect, so the ability to recognize the warning signs of abuse is key to prevention and intervention.   The behavior of the caregiver, such as not allowing visitors, showing a lack of concern or referring to the elder as a “weight” or “load” may allude to signs of abuse.

          The odds are that elder abuse will increase with the aging of the population and needs to be more widely acknowledged and addressed.    It has been said that as many as 78% of abused older people are over 70 years of age and the majority are women.  The consequences are serious.  Quality of life is destroyed, causing a feeling of helplessness, intensified stress, psychological decay, depression and even dementia.  Declining abilities, malnutrition, and early death can also result from elder abuse. 

          Elder abuse is a hidden problem and tends to be committed mostly by his or her family in the privacy of the elder person’s home.   As with most victims of abuse, be it a child, adult, or elder, the victim does not realize he or she is being abused.  Abuse is not a word in their vocabulary.  All they know is that someone doesn’t like them and is treating them badly and they feel trapped.  They also think this is how it is when you get old and it is their entire fault.  They have done something wrong to cause the anger on the part of the abuser.  The elder victim is afraid that others won’t believe him if he reports what is going on and how he or she is being treated, and is afraid he will be institutionalized.  The perpetrator may be the only social support the elder has and if he reports the treatment he is receiving, the perpetrator may retaliate in the future.  If the elder is in ill health or has cognitive decline, he/she may be unable to report the any kind of maltreatment.

More to come.

Caring for Victims

Laurel Hall