February is traditionally a time when love is in the air, stores are covered in red hearts, and people show how much they appreciate the special someone in their life with candy and flowers. Add to this tradition and show a little love to your elderly parents or grandparents by checking-up on their living conditions and for signs of abuse.
Elder abuse and neglect spans across all demographics and takes place in private homes and facilities. The national Center for Elder Abuse estimates that one out of 10 people, over the age of 65, are intentionally or unintentionally abused or neglected and for every one case of abuse reported, 23 are not reported.
Early detection of warning signs can preclude neglect from becoming a serious issue. Discussing current circumstances with your elderly loved one and making a future plan for added assistance can help prevent them from becoming a victim. Physicians at the Center of Excellence in Elder Abuse have compiled a list of guidelines that families can follow to help assess their loved ones’ care situation:
Assess the condition of your loved one’s home and personal care
Is the household being maintained? Do they have clean laundry? Is the refrigerator stocked sufficiently? How is their personal hygiene? If they live alone, it may be a matter of malnutrition of self-neglect.
Check for piled up mail and ask about finances
Is the mail being opened and received regularly? Are bills being paid on time? Have their spending or banking patterns changed? The elderly are often targets of financial scams or taken advantage of financially by family or close friends.
Look for signs of depression or loneliness
Give your family member a chance to express any feelings of anxiety. Your visit should be long enough for you to notice these kinds of changes.
Check that medications are being filled and taken as prescribed, and that regular medical appointments are being attended
Routine checkups are important for maintaining overall health.
If it seems necessary, accompany your loved one to the doctor for a full medical evaluation
Check eyesight, hearing, teeth and digestion.
Look for cuts, bedsores and bruises
The presence of these could indicate abuse or neglect.
If your family member already receives additional assistance from a caregiver, make sure you meet with them to evaluate how they have managed your loved one’s care
It may be time to reevaluate if they are still suitable for the task
Take time to meet neighbors
Introduce yourself, give responsible neighbors your phone number and ask them to give you a call if they see anything suspicious or in case of an emergency.
Elderly family members may not recognize they need extra help or may be in denial. While it is necessary for you to address the needs for added assistance, it is important to not push them into a situation that they may not want or are uncomfortable with.
“Family members often think they know what is ‘right’ for an aging relative. It’s important to listen to how they think a problem can be solved and show respect for their opinions,” said Debra Morrow, Division Manager, Senior and Adult Services. “Forcing a solution onto your loved one can cause resentment and rejection and undermine your relationship.”
If you suspect your elderly loved one is at risk of neglect or abuse, contact Sacramento County Adult Protective Services at 916-874-9377 or visit the Senior and Adult Services web page.