Elder Abuse – Unveiling the Dirty Little Secret
April 12, 2006
All people, regardless of age, deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and in a fashion that keeps them safe from physical, emotional and financial harm. This is particularly true with respect to the relationship between caretakers and those who require care. Each year an estimated 2.1 million seniors in the United States fall victim to people who abuse their trust and need. The media has done a good job of grandstanding such abuse in public forums, such as nursing homes, but alarmingly, most elder abuse occurs in the most private of settings, the elder’s home, where abuse is least likely to be recognized by outsiders who could intervene and provide help.
The overwhelming majority of elder abuse occurs at the hands of family members, other household members and paid caregivers. These people have the closest contact with their victims, which puts them in a position to inflict abuse, neglect or exploitation. Unfortunately, the very situation that requires elderly people to rely on others – their dependence upon another – is often the single most contributing factor to the abuse. The physical presence of someone so dependent within a family’s home changes the dynamics of that home, as lifestyles must be adjusted. This causes additional stress within a unit that already has its own internal stresses, which is especially enhanced when there has been a history of abuse in a family. Often, abusive parents are abused by their children when they become dependent upon them, but clearly this is not always the case.
Physical abuse occurs when the abuser uses enough force to cause pain or injury to another, including acts of violence such as striking, hitting with or without a physical object, biting, burning, pinching, restraining and inappropriate use of drugs…
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by: Gina M. Barry, Esquire