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Signs of Abuse Towards the Elderly

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Types of Abuse

Elder abuse is a growing problem. While we don't know all of the details about why abuse occurs or how to stop its spread, we do know that help is available for victims. Concerned people, like you, can spot the warning signs of a possible problem, and make a call for help if an elder is in need of assistance.

Visit this website for more information on types of abuse: http://www.ncea.aoa.gov

One type of abuse that often gets overlooked is neglect; there are many different forms of neglect.  Many would think that neglect would be where someone is at home alone without someone to help them, even though there is family around or close by.  Neglect is also one of the most non reported kinds of abuse.  IE:  Neglect can be that a family member can’t safely walk unassisted, take showers without help or fear of falling, can’t prepare meals safely, or can’t get out to get food to make meals, they may not be taking medications properly or not taking them because they can’t pick them up or possibly afford them, but they do have someone living with them or coming in daily in exchange for some help when needed. 

When you have someone that is at home and they have family/friends that are close by or possibly even living with them in exchange for helping them (ex. help with showers, dressing, making meals, housekeeping you would think they are being well taken care of. That is sometimes not the case.  Even if a person has someone living with them, a lot of times they are getting no care at all.  We have often seen where the person that is living with them in exchange for help still is not eating, medications are not given at correct times, the house is a mess and the person is gone more often than home to be a help.  This sadly can come from friends and most the time from family.  They will accept the place to stay knowing that they won’t have to pay anything, no rent, utilities, cable, food etc., it’s a free place to stay to give minimal amount of care.  The elderly person is left alone most of the day, they have to ask for food just to be told they will get something for them soon, they are yelled at if the person asks for help because the caregiver is too busy or tired to lift a hand to help keep the house up and laundry done, medications for the most part are given sporadically or could be being abused/used by the person taking care of them. The person doesn’t want to complain or make them leave or even turn them in for fear of being alone and knowing they can’t live by themselves.     

For example, we had a very sweet lady that had been in/out of the Emergency Room (ER) six times in the last three months, each time it was for dehydration, confusion, falling or weakness.  She went home each time because her granddaughter was living with her 24/7 and taking care of her.  She blamed her falling and weakness on herself and not waiting for assistance from her granddaughter (age 42).  The last time that she came into the ER she was admitted for Failure to Thrive and the doctors were going to run tests to see if she had something else going on.  When I was brought in, it was to see if I could help possibly find her a care home or possibly help with additional care givers because her current caregiver was overwhelmed and needed help, the patient did not want to leave her home.  She was adamant about that, she was to go home.  It turns out that her granddaughter had been living with her for about five years, rent free in exchange for help when it was needed, for keeping the house clean and making some meals and going grocery shopping with she was supplied her grandma’s debit card, doing laundry and changing the linens weekly.  It had been notated in the chart that this lady had lost close to 20 pounds in the last six months and a total of 38 in the last year.   She now weighted 98 lbs.. 

It turns out that the granddaughter and family had been taking advantage of this sweet lady for years.  She told me she had saved close to $250,000 and thought that would be good to help her when she aged and needed help.  Not only did the immediate family use the funds that mom had generously said they could borrow from time/time, with the promise to pay back, but they had dwindled her savings down to less than $20,000 by the time we got connected with her.  When we were talking to her, she was so focused on going home and making sure her granddaughter kept a place to live, because if she went into an ALF or board and care and sold her home then her granddaughter wouldn’t have any place to live.

The ER Case Manager and one of our Care Cooridnators called in APS to check out her situation at home.  The report came back that there was no good food in the fridge, what was in there had grown mold or was completely rancid.  The kitchen was filthy; it looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in years.  Paper plates were all over the place because the granddaughter said it hurt her back to do dish’s when she did provide a meal.  The bed where this lady slept was so dirty and urine stained and looked like it had not been washed or changed in months.  The granddaughter told the APS worker that she had recently hurt her back and she was going to clean up next week when the Dr. told her she could start doing things again.  There were bottles and bottles of pills on the counter, some never opened or medications given.  She needed heart and blood pressure medicine among others and that had not been given in weeks or longer.  The living room was filthy with old food and clothes all over.  According to the APS worker the house needed to be gutted or condemned.  One of the worst things that they saw when investigating the house was the granddaughter’s room and bathroom.  Immaculately clean, fresh linens on her bed, a closet full of clean clothes, she also had her own small fridge in the room next to her bedroom with fresh food. 

Abuse can come in different forms, it is very important if you see abuse that you say something.

It doesn’t take long to make a report; here are a few ways in which you can:

Contact your local Adult Protective Services (APS) office in the county where the abuse is happening: 

Sac County :(916) 874-9377   

Placer County: (888) 886-5401

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