Elder abuse is a difficult topic, but one that needs to brought up because of the increasing number of cases. Since the elderly are generally too ashamed or embarrassed to admit that they’re being abused, it is generally the caregiver or someone close to the client who reports the abuse. That makes it even more important to train your caregivers on the warning signs to look for.
Discovery Health wrote an article titled, “The 5 Signs of Elder Abuse.” This article goes into detail about what you should be watching for and what to do if you notice anything peculiar happening.
- Unexplained Injuries – Sadly, the elderly can be disabled or have memory problems, making them an easy target for violent and aggressive people. If there are repeated bruises, cuts, burns or multiple “accidents,” investigate the situation. Always ere on the side of caution and don’t be ashamed to ask questions. Make sure they understand they’re in a safe environment and it is your job to keep them safe. If the client is not mentally capable to respond to your questions, then bring concerns to your employer for a second opinion and never be afraid to act accordingly.
- Lack of Basic Care – Watch for signs of neglect, especially if your company isn’t checking in with a client on a daily basis. Neglect is the most common form of elder abuse as someone could refuse them food, water, bathing, even taking him or her to a doctor’s appointment. Seniors suffering from neglect may appear dirty, malnourished, dehydrated or have untreated medical conditions like bedsores.
- Changes in Behavior – If your client is generally upbeat and is suddenly depressed and moody, that may be a sign of emotional abuse. The most common form of emotional abuse is someone making the client feel stupid, worthless and deserving of this kind of ridicule. Often, when the subject is brought up, someone who is being abused will change the subject or refuse to discuss the problem. This should be a big warning sign. Clients suffering from dementia may not be able to communicate that they are being abused, so look for behavior changes such as talking to themselves, rocking, even developing a new “comfort” tic like sucking a thumb.
- Conflict – If you notice frequent arguments between a family member and your client, mention your concerns to that family member. If he or she tenses up or acts defensive, evaluate the situation closely. Take it seriously if a family member threatens your client, takes away privileges or humiliates him or her in public or private.
- Changes in Finances – This could be as simple as a loved one always taking money without asking or even manipulating your client into giving away large sums. Watch for warning signs that someone has taken over your client’s finances completely: unpaid bills lying around, the client suddenly being unable to afford little necessities or dodging finance questions. Finances can be a tricky situation and it’s best to approach this this issue carefully.
The best way to keep your clients safe is by not only training your caregivers on what to look for, but how to speak up and what to do in these situations. The worst-case scenario would be a caregiver being too timid to stick up for the client, allowing abuse or neglect to continue. The top priority of your home care business should always be keeping your clients safe no matter the cost.