How to Stop Elder Abuse ?

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, up to 3.5 million seniors could be victims of physical or psychological abuse and neglect annually. As the population ages, that number could grow.

It’s a disgusting fact that elder abuse is on the rise in our country. It seems as though the more privacy laws the government puts in place, the less privacy we actually have. Have you noticed this to be true?

There are three types of elder abuse; emotional, physical and financial. Financial happens the most frequently and it’s the easiest type of abuse to prevent. Healthcare professionals are required by most states (44 and counting) to report elder abuse.

Why are CNAs uniquely qualified to spot and report elder abuse?

In both outpatient and inpatient settings, CNAs and nurses are helping the elderly get undressed, into gowns, into showers, etc. So CNA can assess things: soiled clothes, nail appearance, body weight and sores or bruises on a patient’s arms or legs. Any time you see those, especially in concealed places, that’s a red flag.

And CNAs are constantly talking – probing – to assess cognitive status and build the kind of rapport that encourages a patient to open up and talk about what’s going on at home.

How do you spot elder abuse/neglect?

You systematically take in the whole picture – of the patient and the caregiver – to come up with that specific diagnosis. It helps to be able to interview the patient and caregiver together and separately, but you can’t always do that. If you have an intuitive feeling that there is abuse or neglect, follow up on it.

In what practice areas are CNAs most likely to encounter elder abuse?

CNAs may spot abuse in office visits, on the units, and in the emergency department. When older people are constantly showing up there, and their caregiver says they have “accidents,” that’s another red flag.

Elder abuse is most often committed by family members. What are signs they may be abusers?

One sign is when family members always have an “excuse.”  For instance, if there are bruises on the older person’s arm, they say, “He’s accident-prone.” On the other hand, when you ask the older person about things, the family member won’t let them answer or get a word in edgewise. That – not letting them talk – is a red flag.

Knowing the caregiver’s background provides clues too. There’s more tendency for abuse if they are substance abusers, have mental–health issues or depend on the elderly person financially…. The biggest red flag, though, is if the caregiver and the older person live together.

Most states have mandatory elder abuse reporting laws. What’s the easiest way for a nurse to report elder abuse, without repercussions?

If the person is living at home, call the local office for the National Adult Protective Services Association. They are obliged to follow-up, and you have the right to remain anonymous.

If the victim is in a nursing home or other facility, take a witness with you to the head nurse and make a verbal report and document the situation. Or contact the state ombudsman, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit or the state agency that licenses residential facilities.

What else do CNAs need to know about elder abuse?

Dementia is a significant issue in the incidence of elder abuse – and the reason documentation is so important. When a CNA thinks there is some kind of abuse or neglect, they should make a note about their concerns including the questions posed to the patient and the patient’s responses…. If there are marks or bruises, the nurse should measure these, note the color and where they are located.

How to Deal with Financial Abuse?

Unfortunately, seniors are often less discriminating about giving out their personal information because they come from a time when the world was far more trustworthy. It’s hard for them to comprehend the lengths that someone would go to steal money from them.  As a CNA, you should educate your patients about the potential financial dangers that they might fall prey to if you don’t educate them.

Raising their awareness without terrifying the elderly is a delicate process. Once you are fully aware of what is going on in the world today, you simply share the information and put simple systems and procedures in place to prevent the abuse from happening to any patient of yours or an elderly loved one. It’s important to come up with a plan that works for you and the other person so that does not take away independence, but rather, offers a solution, support, and confidence.

What are the most common financial abuse schemes?

Fraudulent schemes and scams are everywhere. The most common ones are:

  • Telemarketing Fraud
  • Internet Fraud
  • Investment Schemes
  • Non-existent Charitable Causes
  • Prizes and Free Vacations

How should the elderly respond to scammers?

The absolute best line of defense is to practice saying NO with gusto! There are no miracle cures, there are no free vacations (at least not that an elder will enjoy and be cared for on) and there is no get-rich-quick scheme. The people going after the unsuspecting senior is well trained to use very crafty language and it’s virtually impossible to educate the senior on recognizing this type of language.  However, you can teach a senior the basics and that is that none of these things being “sold” are real.

You also want to educate the senior to NEVER give personal information to strangers over the phone. It’s nearly impossible to get your money back if you’ve been cheated over the telephone. Ideally, put this practice into place. When someone asks for personal information or money, have your patient say, ”My son/daughter handles all my finances and I’d be happy to have him/her call you back with my information.” Watch how fast the person hangs up. It’s also a good idea to have all credit cards in a secure place and have low expenditure limits set on them. If something does happen, at least the senior won’t be out a lot of money. It’s not optimal but sometimes seniors don’t want to give up control overall of their decision-making or financial spending.