Elder Abuse

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The physical work load, financial strain and emotional burden of caring for an elderly person can lead to mistreatment of that person. Abuse of the elderly is tragic, and those care-givers who resort to it out of exhaustion, frustration, and worry are likewise tragic, and need relief and counseling. Witnesses to elder abuse are difficult to .

Abusers of elderly people have these characteristics :
1. Usually family members; often the elderly person lives with them.
2. Often victims of recent stress themselves, for instance, disruptions in family life, changes in living arrangement, and loss of social support.
3. More likely to be suffering from financial problems, acoholism or mental illness.
4. Often lacking needed services.
Elder abuse takes five forms :
1. Passive neglect
Unintentional abuse in which the care-giver does not do that which is required (such as preventing skin breakdown), due to lack of skills, knowledge or physical ability.
2. Psychological abuse
Causing mental distress by name calling, isolating, ignoring, or ridiculing the older person.
3. Financial abuse
Illegal, or anauthorized use of the person`s money or property.
4. Active neglect
Deliberately abandoning an older person or denying health care.
5. Physical abuse
Inflicting pain or injury, or restraining an older person against his will.
Instructing family members in caring for an elderly person in the home is an important nursing responsibility. When an older person is admitted to the hospital emergency room with a history of injury due to falls, the living conditions of that person may need to be investigated. Untreated sores or conditions may be warning signs. Older persons who appear malnourished, frightened, or depressed may be suffering from abuse. The nurse must closely observe relationships between the elderly and their family members. Care for the care-giver must become a part of long range planning for health care services for older people.
Resources to contact when elder abuse is suspected, or when families feel they might become abusive, are a social service agency or the police department. A crisis intervention center, often hospital-based, is another resource.
Reference :
Thobaben M : Abuse: The shameful secret of elder care. RN 51, 1988.
Farrell J : Nursing Care of the Older Person, J.B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, 1990.

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