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Risk factors and prevention of elder abuse

Abuse is common among those aged 65 years and older. Elder abuse can be physical, neglect, financial, sexual or emotional.

Certain individuals are at higher risk of being victims of abuse, and there are ways to prevent abuse from happening.

Risk factors

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, experts do not know the exact number of older adults that are victims of neglect and abuse. Oftentimes, the victims themselves may be afraid or unable to report it, or caregivers and family members are unable to identify the signs of abuse due to inadequate training and lack of awareness. What experts do know, however, is what makes an older individual more vulnerable to abuse. Risk factors include:

  • Presence of dementia or disabilities
  • Low social support
  • Poverty
  • Previous traumatic event
  • Poor physical health
  • Females

Abuse prevention

The perpetrators of abuse are most commonly family members, although neighbors, friends, caregivers and other elder adults are also culprits. Many abusers are also more commonly male, have mental issues, have a history of substance abuse, are social outcasts and under a lot of stress.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are a number of ways to prevent or stop abuse from happening. One is to understand and identify the signs of abuse. Prevention is possible when family members or friends listen to the challenges of older adults and find ways to provide support.

Because abuse may occur when caregivers have too much on their plate, some ways to support them is to enroll the elderly into adult day care programs, enlist help from local relief care groups and identify outlets that help promote emotional well-being.

The elderly population continues to grow rapidly, which means a higher probability of abuse. It helps for family members to know how to report suspected abuse so it can end.

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