Why does mom have a black eye? Is it elder abuse? I work with many families in my practice. A lot of them have a loved one with some sort of dementia. From time to time, I see behaviors that look a lot like elder abuse. I bet you do too.
Active Elder Abuse
Active elder abuse such as striking the elder (physical), or yelling at them (psychological), or stealing their debit card (financial) are the obvious events. These should be reported and families should be on the lookout for this type of abuse. Observe whenever the elder is visited by any family member. Ask questions and don’t let “oh, I am fine, dear” be the only answer when you suspect some problem. Dig deeper … your elder may need an advocate.
When the elder is ignored, is that elder abuse? It may be if it leads to bed sores, falls that injure the elder, or worse. What about simply their making bad decisions on their own because there is no one watching over them? It is hard for a family to kow. Is letting dad live on his own “respectful distance” and allowing him the freedom to thrive? When does it become a situation that is actively dangerous? And, it is hard to know when to change gears from passive observation to an active role in protecting or managing the elder.
Competence is the real issue … does making a “bad” decision mean he is incompetent? Does purchasing a minor repair for an outrageous sum of money rise to the level of incompetence of the elder or a criminal act by the seller? Probably not. Morally reprehensible maybe, but abuse? That is a hard line to draw.
Here is a link to a resource from “Aging In Place”, a national organization that supports the needs of families and elders in the aging process. It reminds us of the statistics and what you can do about elder abuse. Most important is not to ignore it… too often that leads to worse things for the elder and their families. Never wait if you spot active elder abuse.
Here is another blog posting you can reference when you visit your elder .. not only during the holidays but every time you visit. And here is a guide for visits to communities or their home.
Contact my office if you have questions about elder planning, legal documents, Wills and Trusts, or how to find resources to help you and your loved ones. We are happy to help!