1 in 6 people aged 60+ experienced some form of abuse within a public setting last year according to the WHO, thus highlighting the detrimental impact of the pandemic on this demographic around the world.
These figures are expected to be a result of the increased strain on care caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which included both mental health and financial issues.
In fact, there has been an 83.6% increase in elderly abuse compared to pre-pandemic levels according to research, with COVID-19 restrictions forcing many older individuals and their loved ones apart.
In long-term care facilities and nursing homes, for example, two-thirds of staff admitted to having committed abuse between 2020 and 2021, according to WHO.
And despite the gradual return to ‘normal’, it is expected that this abuse will remain inherent in communities as current financial pressures increase strain.
Virtual College, specialist online training providers, have offered their expert insight into how you can identify and respond to elderly abuse.
- Types Of Elderly Abuse And How To Spot These
Sarah Baker, Chief Learning Officer at Virtual College, explains: “Elderly abuse can come in different forms, some more subtle than others, so it is important to fully understand the ways in which abuse can manifest itself and the tell-tale signs to look out for”.
The three forms of elderly abuse are defined as: physical, emotional or psychological and neglect. A systematic review revealed that 25% of elderly couples reported significant psychological abuse and 5.6% reported physical violence in their relationship.
Signs of physical abuse may include bruises, or skin tears and, in severe cases, unexplained fractures or broken bones. Psychological and emotional abuse can manifest in intimidation or verbal abuse against the elderly, or even subtler changes, such as withdrawal. Neglect may show itself in the elderly having no access to food or clothing, or lacking basic hygiene.
Elderly abuse can manifest itself in different ways for differing individuals, so being vigilant and informed of the different signs of these types of abuse is important.
Virtual College has created a helpful and free infographic on how to spot the signs of elderly abuse, which can be accessed here > https://www.virtual-college.co.uk/resources/abuse-of-the-elderly-how-to-spot-the-signs
- How To Identify Financial Exploitation Of The Elderly
Another form of abuse, which has been on the rise since the COVID-19 pandemic, is financial abuse. Financial exploitation involves someone close to the elderly person interfering with their financial dealings, including diverting money without permission or restricting access to funds.
Sarah Baker adds: “Financial abuse of the elderly is a widespread issue. According to a 2017 study, 6.8% of adults reported experiencing financial abuse in community settings and this was as high as 12.0% by staff in institutional settings. We may expect these rates to have increased as a result of the pandemic, and given financial abuse is a lesser known form of abuse, it’s all the more important to be aware of its signs and how to react to it”.
Financial abuse can be displayed in carers or family members wanting large sums of money to be transferred to them, or an elderly individual having limited access to their own funds. Equally, you may find forged signatures for transferring money from the elderly individuals accounts or that debt being built up in the elderly individual’s name that is not their own.
If you suspect financial exploitation of the elderly, you should report it immediately to either the police or adult social services at your local council.
- How To Prevent Elderly Abuse
We can reduce the risk of elder abuse by putting systems in place that can prevent abuse from the start. But first, we must understand the risk factors associated elderly abuse.
Sarah Baker provides her insight: “It is entirely plausible to prevent the likelihood of elderly abuse from occurring in the first place, and there are different ways that you can do this.
“To prevent elder abuse at home, you should be actively supporting the caregiver to reduce any stress or strain they may feel which could lead to elder abuse. One way this can be done is by seeking community resources that can reduce any emotional strain or stress and support everyone in the equation as a whole.
“A way to prevent elderly abuse, which is often overlooked, is to keep the elderly person in question active and engaged. If they have access to their community environment and are able to be active, this reduces their likelihood of being taken advantage of, helps them form strong bonds with others and work on their physical wellbeing”.
Virtual College would also strongly encourage that any caregiver that is hired to support an elderly individual is examined to ensure they have no history of abuse or violence to reduce the risk of elder abuse.
- How To React If Someone You Know Is Subject To Elderly Abuse
If you suspect any form of elderly abuse is happening to someone close to you, it is important that you act fast.
Sarah Baker comments: “Being brave enough to voice when you feel something is wrong is the first step, and you should report the matter as soon as possible. Detailing all evidence, sightings and suspicions to the relevant authorities is exactly what needs to be done.
“You may find, however, that first confiding in a relative or friend, or even a medical professional, is the first course of action you may want to take to better understand your next steps.”
Contacting your local authorities to report the incident, which is often your local government social care services, is the best port of call. However, if you feel like the
matter places the elderly individual at immediate risk of harm or danger, contacting the police should be your priority.
- Where To Learn More About Elderly Abuse And Safeguarding The Elderly
Safeguarding is important for anyone who comes into contact with vulnerable, or elderly, individuals frequently. If this is you, or if you are interested in learning more about how you can play your part to protect the elderly from abuse, Virtual College offer online safeguarding courses to give you a comprehensive understanding of the topic.
To learn more about safeguarding and elderly abuse, you can also utilise the company’s range of free resources, including how to safeguard the elderly and the best practice for safeguarding vulnerable adults to better understand the complexities of elderly abuse and how you can work to identify and prevent it.