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Senior Abuse and Elder Cleansing

Outline: Information on abuse of seniors and persons with disabilities by carers and persons in a position of trust.

Main Digest

Many seniors experience elder abuse, at times referred to as, 'elder mistreatment.' It may happen to anyone at all, despite a person's race, background or religion. Elder abuse may happen in many places, to include a senior's own home, a family member's home, an assisted living facility, or a long-term care facility.

Providing care for a person who is mentally or physically disabled can be very demanding and exhausting. Some caregivers become frustrated and the potential for some type of emotional or physical abuse increases. Abuse can take a number of forms to include:

Abandonment: Abandonment is leaving a senior alone without planning for their care.

Neglect: Neglect by a caregiver or another person happens when the caregiver is not responsive to the needs of the senior.

Physical Abuse: Physical abuse happens when a caregiver or another person causes bodily harm by pushing, hitting, or slapping.

Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse involves a caregiver or another person forcing a senior to watch or participate in sexual activities.

Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse may include a caregiver or another person saying hurtful words, yelling, threatening, or continually ignoring an older person. Keeping an older person from seeing relatives and close friends is also a form of emotional abuse.

Chart showing types of senior abuse
Chart showing types of senior abuse

You might witness signs of abuse or neglect when you visit a senior at home, or in a senior care facility. You may notice some different signs the person is experiencing, such as:

Seniors, Financial Abuse and Health Care Fraud

Financial abuse occurs when a senior's belongings or money are stolen. The abuse may include forging of checks, taking of Social Security benefits or retirement benefits, or use of the senior's bank accounts or credit cards without permission. Financial abuse includes changing names on a will, life insurance policies, bank accounts, or the title to their home. Financial mistreatment is becoming increasingly widespread and is difficult to detect.

A number of seniors in America are victims of financial abuse. The abuse can be highly upsetting. Along with losing money, some seniors never regain their sense of self-worth and trust again.

Health care fraud is a crime that may be committed by hospital staff members, health care workers - even doctors. It includes overcharging, falsifying Medicare or Medicaid claims, billing twice for the same service, or charging for care the senior never even received.

As a former Nursing Assistant, I have witnessed not only other aides, but even Nurses themselves being walked out of facilities by members of the management and the police department for different crimes against seniors. Some aides or nurses have been fired or arrested for stealing the rings off of senior's fingers, taking their narcotic medications, or stealing their possessions or money. Why would an aide or a nurse do such things

With the understanding that aides are not always paid the best hourly wage, it is still beyond my ability to understand why an aide or a nurse would do such a thing. Aides and nurses are people working in positions of trust. They work with people who experience forms of disabilities and seniors and understood who they were working with when they pursued the education required to obtain the license needed to perform their job duties.

Sheer greed, addiction to drugs, personal financial issues and other issues may drive an aide or nurse to steal from a senior. I have encountered many highly-dedicated aides and nurses who would never, ever steal from anyone, especially a senior or person with a disability. Yet there always seems to be one or two at a facility who choose to harm a senior, throw away their education as well as their license to practice, and risk prison. At times; though, the greed, addiction, or other issues that drive such people to steal from seniors or people with disabilities reaches extremes.

Elder 'Cleansing'

An attorney from the city of Chicago, who has become an activist due to his concerns for seniors, has defined, 'elder-cleansing,' as a three step process. It is one I have never encountered before and it is highly disturbing. The reason it is so disturbing is because it does not involve an aide or nurse who is greedy, addicted to drugs, or who considers their own issues to be more serious than a felony against a member of an at-risk population.

The process described by Attorney Kenneth Ditkowsky as, 'elder-cleansing,' and its three steps goes like this:

A court asserts dominion over a senior's life and assets by appointing a guardian for the senior. Mr. Ditkowsky detailed one such instance which involved Mary Sykes in which legal process was not adhered to. Next, the senior is systematically isolated from family members and friends who may become concerned and their assets are pilfered by the same guardian the court appointed to conserve their estate! The last stage of elder-cleansing, according to Mr. Ditkowsky, happens when the senior - who has become isolated and placed in a facility, is drugged until they die. In one instance of elder-cleansing, a senior had the gold fillings in her mouth taken out for the cash the gold was worth.

Watch Out for Seniors and People with Disabilities

Abuse may happen to any older person, yet often affects people who depend on others for assistance with activities of daily living, to include bathing, dressing, and taking prescription and over-the-counter medications. The criminals who pursue these crimes seek out seniors and people with disabilities because they perceive seniors and people with disabilities to be, 'easy victims.'

Mistreatment of seniors and people with disabilities is not something that will stop on its own. Someone else needs to become involved and end it. A number of seniors are too ashamed to report the abuse they experience. Some are afraid that if they report the abuse, it will get back to the caregiver and the abuse will only get worse. If you think you know someone who is being abused; emotionally, physically, or financially - talk to the person when you are alone with them. You could say that you are worried and that you think something is wrong. Offer to take the person to get help, such as through Adult Protective Services.

The majority of physical wounds heal over time. Yet any type of mistreatment may leave a person feeling scared and depressed. At times, the person thinks the abuse is their own fault. Protective service agencies might suggest support groups and counseling that can help the person who has been abused to heal their emotional wounds.

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