Elder Abuse, The hidden terror…

What happens when you’ finally reach your “golden years” and your daughter moves back to your house with her children, one of whom is 18-years-old and starts dealing drugs from your home? You ask them to move, but they refuse. What happens when you become the involuntary babysitter 24/7?

Where do you turn when your spouse, who was violent when you were younger, starts all over again, but you are now 70?

What happens when someone gets access to and “raids” your grandmother’s bank account?

There’s and old saying: “If you live long enough, you will grow old.” It’s unfortunate that in American society and culture aging is often not respected and revered. Anne Marshall, a White writer of the proposal for the Ageism and Battering Project, once wrote “The culture that controls the media and the economy does not revere age. Quite the contrary. Their message is that to grow old means dropping out of the mainstream, becoming visible only at weddings and family picnics…The White American culture has a history of corrupting words. If we have been indoctrinated to believe “old” means to be useless, non-productive, helpless, have we bought into this culture that buries its aged alive?”

There are more than 30 million Americans over 60 years. According to the Joint Conference on Law and Aging that states by the beginning of the next century the population of people over 65 years old will increase by 75%. However, actual reported cases of abuse of elders represents a fraction of what is thought to occur due to perceived fearful consequences and inconsistent and inefficient reporting mechanisms (Linda Breytspraak Eliza Kendall Burton Halpert, Center on Aging Studies, University of Missouri-Kansas Cit)y. Men and women are equally culpable in the perpetration of abuse. In addition, populations of color can no longer “hide our heads in the sand” as if elder abuse does not also occur in our communities.
What is Elder Abuse? Abuse of older adults is often defined as an act or behavior by a caregiver that results in harm to an older person’s well-being or safety. Caregivers are often family members, but can be anyone who provides care to the older person. Federal definitions of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation appeared for the first time in the 1987 Amendments to the Older Americans Act. These definitions were provided in the law only as guidelines for identifying the problems and not for enforcement purposes. Currently, elder abuse is defined by state laws, and state definitions vary considerably from one jurisdiction to another in terms of what constitutes the abuse, neglect, or exploitation of the elderly. In addition, researchers have used many different definitions to study the problem. Broadly defined, however, there are three basic categories of elder abuse: (1) domestic elder abuse; (2) institutional elder abuse; and (3) self-neglect or self-abuse. In most cases, state statutes addressing elder abuse provide the definitions of these different categories of elder abuse, with varying degrees of specificity.
Financial abuse is when someone, usually someone close to an older person, forces him or her to sell personal belongings or property; steals his or her money, pension check or possessions; or withholds the older person’s money that he or she needs for daily living. Theft, fraud, forgery, extortion and the wrongful use of a Power of Attorney are also forms of financial abuse. Financial abuse is the misuse of an older adult’s money or belongings by a relative or a person in a position of trust.

Physical abuse is defined as the use of physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment. Physical abuse may include but is not limited to such acts of violence as striking (with or without an object), hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, shaking, slapping, kicking, pinching, and burning. In addition, the inappropriate use of drugs and physical restraints, force-feeding, and physical punishment of any kind also are examples of physical abuse.
Signs and symptoms of physical abuse may include: bruises, black eyes, welts, laceration

January 20, 2003
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