/San Diego County

Understanding Elder Abuse

This is the second in a two-part blog series on elder abuse. Read The Truth About Elder Abuse here. 

What would cause someone to hurt an aging adult? What motivates someone to harm another person, either physically, verbally, or mentally? There is usually not just one answer, but many factors that create this unfortunate situation. Here we will look at a few possible causes and types of abuse.

Learned behavior. Unfortunately, most abusers have learned the behavior from either watching it happen or experiencing it themselves. Some people have been taught that to solve problems, you force your own way, and often this becomes physical with an aging adult who may or may not want to comply with their caregiver or family member.

Motivation. Some abusers are motivated by being in control or holding the power over another individual or a situation. They use physical force, mental games, verbal battering, financial coercion, or a combination of these to maintain control over the individual. Others are motivated by their unhappiness with their situation in being a caregiver, or the fact that they don’t receive enough money or recognition for the job they perform. 

Domestic Characteristics. Abuse is not always or only physical. Other forms include neglect, in which the victim is not properly cared for. Sometimes the aging adult thinks they don’t deserve to be well taken care of due to the type of parent that they were, and the abuser can reinforce this opinion. Financial abuse can be very hard to detect, in that often times the victims trust their abuser with their finances either by choice or because they have cognitive impairments and may not see a pattern of abuse.  Verbal assaults can greatly wear on the mental and physical condition of an aging adult, and they leave marks that cannot be seen. Often times abuse is a combination of two or more of these characteristics and since it occurs in a home, can be very difficult to diagnose.

What to Do. If you suspect elder abuse, be careful to document it. Write down any situations you have witnessed, suspicions you may have, or marks you have seen. If you are a family member, investigate further into the financial situation or offer to take over more of the caregiving responsibilities (at least for a time) so you can assess the situation more closely.  If you aren’t sure and don’t want to accuse anyone, you may want to consider contacting Adult Protective Services and having a neutral party investigate on behalf of the aging adult. You can read this for more information.

This information was found on the National Institute of Justice website These statements have not been evaluated by a medical doctor and are meant to be informative. If you have questions regarding this topic or your health, always seek out your doctor.

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