June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Recognizing that the global population of people aged 60 and older will more than double by 2025, the United Nations first designated this day in December 2010 to bring the world’s attention to the problem of elder abuse and neglect. There are four commonly recognized types of elder abuse: physical, psychological, financial and neglect. Sadly, most seniors who are abused choose not to tell anyone, so it’s important to be aware of the different kinds of abuse and their signs.
Kinds of abuse
Abuse such as hitting, shaking or shoving might not be very obvious to the observer. But if you notice bruising or broken bones on a regular basis, you should make sure this is not as a result of physical abuse. The over or under medicating of a senior by their caregiver is also a type of physical abuse. The senior may become disoriented or lethargic in this case.
A senior will suffer from psychological abuse when he is humiliated, insulted or threatened by a caregiver. The caregiver may be a relative, friend or someone hired by the family. Many abusers will isolate the senior from his family and friends so that he feels there is no one he can confide in about the abuse. Consequently, the senior may appear to be anxious or too submissive when in the company of his caregiver.
Financial abuse of seniors can take many forms. Their assets may be misused or stolen. Someone may cash their cheques without authorization. Or they may be pressured into making or changing a Will or signing legal documents that they don’t understand. Some adult children will restrict their parents’ spending if they have power of attorney for their accounts. In their minds, their parents are spending their inheritances and they want to prevent them from depleting what they think is already theirs.
Neglect of seniors occurs when a caregiver does not provide them with adequate water, food, shelter, clothing, medication/medical attention, or assistance with basic necessities. The seniors who are most vulnerable in this situation are usually isolated or suffering from serious medical conditions.
What to look for
1. If you notice that a senior has not been taking care of his appearance, this may be a sign of physical or financial abuse. He may no longer have the funds to take care of his personal hygiene.
2. You may notice a change her personality. An older relative or friend who used to be outgoing has suddenly become very quiet and keeps to herself. You may not hear from her like you used to and, when you try to call, her caregiver always says she is not available.
3. Out of the blue, an elderly relative tells you that he has recently drawn up new Wills and designated new beneficiaries on the recommendations of an individual you have never heard of. This should definitely be cause for alarm.
There are many good websites that contain information about elder abuse in Canada, such as The Government of Canada’s site, so make sure to educate yourself on this very important issue. I think UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put it best when he said, “Let us strengthen our resolve to end this problem as part of our efforts to create a life of dignity for all.”
Marcy Ages is a passionate, detail-driven provider of financial planning services, including investment management and tax preparation. As founder of The Care Network, Marcy also works with other service professionals to support high-net-worth individuals with their estate planning and assisted living issues.
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