Whether your elderly loved one lives at home with home health workers coming in and out or they live in an assisted living-type facility, chances are you spent many hours deliberating over the perfect type of care or the the perfect place for them to be so that you could be sure that they are comfortable and well taken care of. Despite all of your hard work and diligence, unfortunately, sometimes our elderly loved ones, especially those who cannot communicate effectively can be at risk for abuse or neglect by their caregivers. In this week’s blog we’ll outline what to look for to ensure that your loved one is safe and sound so that you can have peace of mind knowing you made the right decision for you loved one’s care.
Elderly people who suffer from abuse are usually abused or neglected in the places that they live and often it is by a family member. There are many types of abuse such as emotional, physical and sexual but there are types of abuse that are less common and therefore something that we may not be looking for or aware of. Financial exploitation, for example. This can occur in the form of a caregiver forging checks or using credit cards without permission or can take the form of phony charities who prey on elderly individuals. Another form of abuse to look for is health care abuse or fraud. We want to think that our loved one’s doctors have their best interests in mind and that we can trust them with our loved one’s care. However, sometimes that is not the case and a healthcare professional might charge for services or tests that were never rendered or double-bill for something. These predators take advantage by assuming that your loved one won’t notice because they may be frail or suffering from memory loss, etc. It is important for you, the caregiver to scrutinize hospital bills, doctor visit bills, to make sure your loved one is not becoming the target of an unethical healthcare professional.
Physical abuse is much easier to spot and therefore take action immediately. Emotional or sexual abuse, not as much so. If your loved one seems withdrawn or edgy and uncomfortable around their caregiver it may be wise to have a conversation with your loved one. It could, of course be nothing but always better to err on the side of caution. If you notice that the caregiver won’t let your loved one visit with family alone, that could be another indicator that something is not right. If your loved one seems unkempt or is losing weight, this too could be a sign that they are being neglected and their basic needs are not being met. If you have any gut feeling that something is not right, trust your instincts and make a change.
Unfortunately, the ailments that accompany old age are sometimes difficult for people to handle. It can be extremely stressful working with an elderly person whose condition is deteriorating. This is by no means an excuse to harm an elderly person in your care however, sometimes people are not adept at handling these behaviors and become frustrated and then act out against the person. If you notice that a caregiver seems unable to handle stressful situations or seems depressed or overworked, these are all factors that put you loved one at risk for abuse.
Being diligent, asking for referrals and taking an active role in your loved one’s life are all ways to minimize putting your loved one at risk. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to make changes to your loved one’s caregiving team or living situation if you feel uneasy. And finally, listen to your loved one. Take what they say at face value. It is important that they feel that they can trust you to do the right thing for them in instances where they cannot. You are their best advocate.
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