Elder Abuse – The Dark Side of Aging

Getting older means that there are certain things about your life that are going to change. The elderly are much more at risk than the rest of us. And while that is in large part due to the likelihood of physical consequences such as illness and injury, that’s not the only side of it.

Yes, when you’re old your body and mind are starting to wear down. This opens you up to certain illnesses which don’t affect younger people or which are going to be much worse for someone of an advanced age.

It can also lead to poor decision making or a lack of understanding about certain important issues in your life that need to be dealt with. But in addition to all of that, it also makes you vulnerable to being taken advantage of.

Elderly people will generally have a lot of family, including their own children and grandchildren, perhaps siblings, cousins and then various others and also tend to need others for assistance. Nurses and carers and the like. 

As horrible as this is to think about, any one of those could be responsible for elder abuse. It’s a serious problem and there are many different types of elder abuse, all of which can be massively detrimental to a senior citizen’s quality of life and their future.

Let’s examine a few of these:

Physical Abuse

What you’ll notice as we talk about this, is the fact that the types of abuse people commit against the elderly are problematic when committed against anyone but it does tend to manifest in a different way.

When we talk about physical abuse, we are primarily talking about things like shoving, hitting with fists or with instruments of force and anything else that will result in pain or even potential injury. 

The elderly have weaker joints, bones and muscles which means the likelihood of injury even just from a single push can be pretty high. It also means that the victim will find it difficult to defend themselves, and one likely to use violence will know that.

It could be a case of a family member taking out their own personal frustrations on an older relative by using violence, or they could be using it to force the older person to give them something or do something for them.

Physical abuse of the elderly would also include impairment, such as restraining them against their consent or locking them in a room. This often happens with the one responsible claiming that they are acting with the elderly person’s best interests at heart.

In some cases, they may actually very misguidedly believe that to be the case, or it could also just be an excuse to use violence for their own gain. 

Emotional Abuse

This is also extremely common and the unfortunate thing about emotional abuse towards the elderly is that it’s not as easy to spot. You can see bruises, cuts or notice the impaired movement and ability that would indicate physical abuse, but emotional abuse can fly under the radar.

The thing about the elderly is that those who are caring for them are in a position of power. It is often in the best interests of an older person to follow the instructions of nurses and carers, but this is power that can be abused.

Yelling at an older person, threatening them, humiliating them, all of these are very common. It will sometimes happen through frustration and of course that’s not an excuse but it is common for family and carers to get frustrated with how slow or unreceptive an old person is.

And then lash out at them in response. Once again, the elderly will feel helpless in these kinds of situations and as a result, it leads to trauma. That can be very dangerous for an older person and can have a seriously negative effect on the brain

Neglect

This one is a little bit different, but in many ways it’s actually more common. Older people do usually need care. With limited energy and mobility they are no longer capable of properly taking care of themselves.

Even getting out of bed to go to the bathroom can be a huge struggle. Some of them can of course maintain their self-sufficiency for the rest of their lives, but there are many who need a lot of help to have a decent quality of life.

Failing to provide them with food, shelter, medication, or any other kind of assistance that they need would constitute as neglect. This is also different from the others we discussed in the sense that it can actually be passive.

Sometimes it can be hard to know that there are things they need which they aren’t getting. It’s not uncommon for an older person to withhold their own personal struggles in order to not burden their family or to try to feel like they’re maintaining some semblance of power.

It is hard to describe passive neglect as abuse, but when we have older relatives we do need to make sure that we watch out for signs that there are things they need which they aren’t getting. 

Watching our relatives age is a distressing thing in and of itself, but the idea of them being abused, especially by those who we have enlisted to care for them, is extremely upsetting. This is why it’s important for us to be aware of the possibility and to make sure we do what we can to watch out for it and prevent it.