New Beginnings acknowledges elder abuse as a distinct form of domestic violence, in that the relationship between the parties involved may not be that of intimate partners. Often abusers of elders are caregivers which have unique, intimate access to the lives and well-being of the person they are responsible for caring for. Elder abuse does not solely occur within facilities, or by non-familial caregivers.
Intimate partner violence also occurs in the elderly population, and often times worsens or begins as the health of the abuser deteriorates. Generational expectations may prevent the victim from choosing to leave.
Abuse may include:
- Physical Violence: inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior, e.g. slapping, bruising, or restraining by physical or chemical means.
- Sexual Violence: non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
- Neglect: the failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.
- Exploitation: the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit.
- Emotional Abuse: inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts, e.g. humiliating, intimidating, or threatening.
- Abandonment: desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
- Self-neglect: characterized as the failure of a person to perform essential, self-care tasks and that such failure threatens his/her own health or safety.
What are the warning signs of elder abuse?
While one sign does not necessarily indicate abuse, some tell-tale signs that there could be a problem are:
- Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.
- Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
- Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
- Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation.
- Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect.
- Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
- Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person are also signs.
Most importantly, be alert. The suffering is often in silence. If you notice changes in a senior’s personality or behavior, you should start to question what is going on.*
*adapted from the Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging.
What do I do if I suspect elder abuse?
New Hampshire RSA161-F:46 states that: “Any person, including, but not limited to, physicians, other health care professionals, social workers, clergy, and law enforcement officials, suspecting or believing in good faith that any adult who is or who is suspected to be incapacitated has been subjected to abuse, neglect, self-neglect, or exploitation or is living in hazardous conditions shall report or cause a report to be made”.
This report should be made to the New Hampshire Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services when possible. Their reporting line is: (603) 271.7014 and hours are: Monday through Friday 8am-4:30pm. Law enforcement is trained to take statements, 24/7, related to suspected abuse and ensure they are properly reported to BEAS. New Beginnings is also willing to work with concerned individuals in reporting suspected abuse. Advocates have the responsibility to report suspected incapacitated adult/elder abuse.
New Beginnings provides services to those experiencing or affected by elder abuse. This includes 24-hour advocate support through the domestic violence hotline: 1.866.644.3574.