Occurring more frequently than any of us know, there are millions of cases of elder abuse each year. Elder abuse is defined as "knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult". This abuse can occur in home or even under the care at a long term care facility specializing in senior care. Many times it goes unnoticed, but when the right resources are available, it is possible to identify elder abuse and take action to protect the elderly individual.
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Elder abuse does not only manifest as physical abuse, and, It’s important to remember that all types of abuse should be reported to the proper authorities the moment that they are noticed.
Common abuse types are physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, exploitation, emotional abuse, and abandonment. Physical abuse is inflicting pain or injury on the senior such as slapping, bruising, or restraining by chemical or physical means. Sexual abuse would be sexual contact that is not consensual. Neglect is the failure to provide food, shelter, protection, or health care for a vulnerable elder. Exploitation is the illegal misuse, taking, or concealment of property, funds, or assets of a senior for the benefit of someone else.
Emotional abuse is to inflict mental pain, anguish, or distress onto an elderly person through either verbal or nonverbal acts like threats, intimidation, or humiliation. Abandonment is to desert a vulnerable elder by anyone that has assumed the responsibility of that person. Unfortunately, these crimes are not commonly reported, and the majority of the abuse is done by someone the senior knows.
To protect an elderly loved one, there are just a few things to remember when putting them in the care of someone other than yourself. Ensure that the loved one is in an elder care program that is of good quality. If at a facility, do research on the facility and what they provide, while knowing what should be expected. The Long Term Care Home Quality Inspection Program produces reports on long term care facilities in Toronto and Ontario as a whole, and these are available to the public.
Don't be afraid to visit the facility, inspect it, and ask many questions. The senior care facility needs to have the appropriate staff to resident ratio. Many nursing homes are understaffed, and staff may only get to spend less than 4 hours per day with each resident due to limited human resources. This is when companion care can be requested via a reputable home care agency to fill in the gaps, and be there for your aging loved one when facility staff may not always be able to.
When your loved one is in a facility, check on them frequently to ensure that they are being cared for properly and receiving sufficient support. Your loved one has rights as a resident of a senior care facility, and be sure to know what those rights are. It is also possible to obtain a copy of the Ontario “Resident's Bill of Rights” from the long term care facility where the senior resides.