Recognizing Signs of Elder Abuse
Abuse means intentionally harming or injuring another person. You may have heard or read stories about a child being mistreated by a parent or caregiver. Did you know that older adults are also at risk of being abused by those who care for them? Recognizing the signs of elder abuse is very important for anyone working in a care facility.
First, anyone can be an abuser, and many people who abuse others do so because they are experiencing a high degree of stress. Sometimes a caregiver’s job can become overwhelming, and the stress can lead to abusive behavior. Many workplaces have counseling services to help employees manage this stress. Helping someone to find resources when they are experiencing a lot of stress could prevent abuse from happening.
Second, there are different forms of abuse. Physical abuse means intentionally hurting another person’s body. Examples of physical abuse include hitting, shaking, or pushing. A person who is being physically abused might have visible injuries, like cuts or bruises. Pay special attention to a patient in your care who seems to have a lot of these types of injuries because they could be signs of abuse. A second type of abuse is emotional abuse. Examples include preventing a person from being able to interact with others or refusing to speak to a person. A patient who is experiencing physical or emotional abuse might seem very afraid, especially around the person who is causing the abuse. A third type of abuse is neglect. Neglect means failing to provide for a dependent person’s basic needs; for example, not providing food, water, or necessary medications is neglect. Failing to help a patient with personal hygiene is also neglect. A patient who is experiencing neglect might have dirty hair or body odor.
Finally, nursing assistants have a legal responsibility to report suspected abuse, and concerns should be reported to a supervisor right away. Reporting suspected abuse, even if the reporter is not absolutely sure, is better than doing nothing. The people who depend on health care workers depend on them for their care and safety.