Elder abuse is taking place in “99 per cent of care homes across England”, as a recent article on The Independent website shows, a statistic which has prompted concerns that elderly people are suffering worst of all due to the “chronic underfunding in the social care system”. For World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, we took a look at what abuse is and how to react.
We hear about it all the time in the news – articles about neglect and abuse in care homes and we pray that it won’t happen to any of our loved ones. The media has shown us what happens behind closed doors of certain care homes and it makes us question our decision to place our parent in care.
We trust their wellbeing to strangers, yes they’re qualified carers and nurses, but they’re strangers nonetheless and we do so because they’re in a position of authority. So what do we do if we feel like they’re abusing that position of trust and harming a loved one?
We’ve put together a little bit of information on abuse and what to do if you suspect abuse in your parent or relatives care home.
What is considered abuse?
Abuse is “single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to the older person”.
The Department of Health says abuse can take 6 different forms:
- Physical – hitting, pushing, being handled roughly, restrained or deprived of basic needs
- Psychological – humiliation and intimidation as well as threats, exclusion and harassment
- Neglect – ignoring care needs and withholding food, warmth and access to medication
- Discrimination – racism, sexism, abuse based on disability, slurs and derogatory comments
- Sexual – acts of any kind that have not been consented to or could not be consented to
- Financial – theft, exploitation, misuse of funds and pressurised financial transactions
What are the signs of abuse?
The signs may be obvious if physical abuse has occurred but symptoms of psychological or discriminatory abuse can be more difficult to discern especially if your parent is embarrassed of the abuse and hiding the signs.
The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) defines the signs as follows:
- Physical – unexplained injuries, bruising, unusually shaped burns, malnutrition and bed ulcers
- Psychological – inability to sleep, loss of appetite, anxiety, confusion or fearfulness
- Neglect – unexplained weight loss, inappropriate clothing and poor physical condition
- Discrimination – uncharacteristic expressions of anger, withdrawal or low self-esteem
- Sexual – unexplained changes in behaviour, torn or soiled clothing and intimate injuries
- Financial – missing personal possessions, missing funds or inability to pay for care
Who do I report the abuse to?
When dealing with the aftermath of nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect, it is vital that the elderly person not blame themselves for being abused. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances of the abuse were; the first step to recovery is not taking the blame. It is common for victims to take the blame for their own abuse, but this is extremely damaging to the prospects for recovery. While the elderly person may feel this way, he or she should be reminded that there were probably very few — if any — occasions when the abuse could have been avoided. The abuser at the nursing home likely used a position of authority and power at the nursing home facility to take advantage of the elderly residents.