Understanding Elder Abuse

Nurse Next Door

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One day while caregiving for a new elderly client, I noticed a large bruise on her forearm. When I asked her about it, she quickly retorted with “it was an accident” and skittishly dashed away. Later that day, when I was picking her up from her adult day program, the program director informed me of the bruise’s source which was reported from another employee. Every day the client would walk unaccompanied to the vending machine around the corner from the center to get a beverage at lunch time. It was later discovered that during that time a group of young adults would steal her change. Earlier that day before I saw the client, I found out that she had refused to hand over the change, so one of the members in the group struck her then took her change. It is a known fact that the elderly become frailer and less capable of standing up to bullies or fight back when attacked like this. Mental and physical ailments can also make elders more challenging companions in their own homes with their family.

Elder abuse can come about in many forms. Most commonly seen are: emotional abuse, healthcare fraud and abuse, financial exploitation, sexual abuse, and overall neglect or abandonment. Caregivers are by law mandated to report any suspected abuse they may identify while caring for their clients. Many caregivers follow through by being responsive as well as documenting and reporting accurately as advocates for their clients if abuse is in question. However, on the flipside, too many cases of elder abuse are not being reported still to this day.

There are risk factors that can contribute to elder abuse. Caregiver burnout can play a role. Caregivers who are overworked might be less attentive to the safety of clients or less observant of potential signs of elder abuse. The client’s personal history and existing condition are contributing influences as well.

It is imperative to prevent elder abuse! Whether you are a friend, family, caregiver, or supervisor of an elder, always intervene if you sense any category of abuse present. Listen to the elderly person. Remember that knowledge is power. Spread the word on what elder abuse is and how to stop this from continuing to transpire. As the Operations Manager at Nurse Next Door in Walnut Creek, CA if new hires have any questions at all about how to recognize, report, document, identify risk factors or learn how to prevent more elder abuse from happening that there is free training available. I also share any free workshops in the community where guest speakers and educators speak out to the public on this hot topic with employees.

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  • Kathleen June 22, 2016

    What can a family member do when they report it but get no help from DFPS?

    • Reply from June 29, 2016


      If you suspect a life threatening situation, call 911. Depending on where you live, there are many hotlines that you can call. There are also many helpful resources and articles available online that are easily accessible and can provide you with the information you need in order for you to get the help that you deserve when you report suspected elderly abuse. Please visit the following the National Center on Elderly Abuse website to learn more at http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/Stop_Abuse/Get_Help/State/index.aspx.

      Best regards,


  • Mary March 13, 2017

    What if you suspect a family member is abusing a client mentally & physically? Client looks exhausted the next day, complaining being tired.
    Is keeping a 85 year old up till 11pm abusive?

    • Reply from March 17, 2017

      Hi Mary,
      It’s important to be fully certain that this individual is suffering from elder abuse before reporting it. If this person is in Canada, every province takes a unique approach with regard to elder abuse. On the online provincial site, there is a link to information on Preventing and Reporting Elder Abuse for Canada and it has the various provincial websites you can access: http://www.carp.ca/2014/07/02/preventing-reporting-elder-abuse/ These various organizations can provide guidance on next steps including the investigation process.

      If you are inquiring from the US, you need to report the suspected abuse to the Adult Protection Agency in their State. They can obtain the Adult Protective Services number for each state by visiting The State Resources section of the National Center of Elder Abuse website or calling 1-800-677-1116.
      Reporting suspected abuse can be done anonymously.

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