Elder Neglect for Family Members and Carers
What is elder neglect? Elder neglect occurs when someone fails to properly care for an elder. A carer may be a family member or someone who is responsible for caring for the elder. The carer may not bathe, dress, or feed the elder regularly. The carer may leave the elder alone in unsafe places. He may not give the elder treatments or give him the wrong amount of medicines. Neglect can happen in the elder's own home, the carer's home, or a facility, such as a nursing home.
What causes elder neglect? The exact cause of elder neglect is not known. Poor or crowded living conditions may be one of the reasons it occurs. The following may increase the elder's risk of neglect:
- He has learning or memory problems.
- He has a long-term condition, such as dementia, diabetes, paralysis, or stroke.
- He has no relatives or friends who can take care of him.
- He is older than 75 years of age.
- He has difficulty getting along with others.
- The carer depends heavily on the elder for things such as money or housing.
- The carer drinks alcohol or uses illegal drugs.
- The carer has a personality disorder, depression, or another mental illness.
- The carer has a history of family violence, such as physical or sexual abuse.
- The carer has stress due to work, taking care of the elder, or financial problems.
What are the signs and symptoms of elder neglect?
- Mouth or tooth problems
- Body pain and weakness
- Signs of dehydration, such as dry skin, eyes, or mouth, urinating little or nothing, or dizziness
- Depression or a health condition that has worsened
- Poor hygiene (dirty clothing or bedding)
- Pressure ulcers (bed sores) on his lower back, hip, or thigh
- Weight loss
How is elder neglect diagnosed? A caregiver will examine the elder closely to look for any health problems caused by neglect. He will ask questions about the elder's health. The elder may be asked if he has been eating properly, taking medicines, and bathing. Caregivers may also ask questions about the carer.
Blood and urine tests: Blood and urine tests may be done to check for health problems, such as malnutrition and infection.
X-rays: The elder may need x-rays if he has pressure ulcers or bruising. Caregivers may use these pictures to see if there is an infection in the bone near a pressure ulcer. They may also check to see if his bones are bruised or broken. X-rays of his chest and abdomen may also be taken.
How is elder neglect treated? An elder who has been neglected may be placed in another setting, such as an adult day care. Special services may be offered to ensure an elder's safety and health.
Counseling: Elder neglect may cause the elder to feel scared, depressed, or anxious. A caregiver may suggest that the elder see a counselor to talk about how he is feeling.
Nutrition: A dietitian may talk to you and the elder about his eating habits and help him create a healthy eating plan. A special diet may be considered depending on the elder's condition. The elder should eat a variety of healthy foods. This includes whole-grain bread, cereal, rice, and pasta. Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables, including dark green and orange vegetables. Include dairy products such as low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese. Choose protein sources, such as lean beef and chicken, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts.
Medicines: Caregivers may give medicines if the elder has medical conditions. He may also need antibiotic medicines if he has bed sores.
Other treatments: The elder may need treatment for injuries, wounds, or other health conditions.
What are the risks of elder neglect? If left untreated, the elder may develop serious health and emotional problems. He may develop dehydration or malnutrition. Malnutrition occurs when he does not get enough calories or nutrients from food to stay healthy. The elder may also become depressed. Elder neglect is a serious, life-threatening problem.
How can I help the elder?
Report neglect: It may be hard to report neglect, but it is very important. Caregivers can help the elder if he is at risk for or is a victim of elder abuse.
Attend follow-up visits with the elder: A caregiver may talk to you, the elder, his family, friends, or those who should be held responsible for elder neglect. This may include what may happen if elder neglect does not stop.
Where can I find more information?
- National Center on Elder Abuse
101 The City Drive South 200 Building
Orange , CA 92868
Phone: 1- 855 - 500-3537
Web Address: http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/NCEAroot/Main_Site/Index.aspx
When should I contact the elder's caregiver? Contact his caregiver if:
- The elder cannot get to his next office visit.
- The elder has new signs and symptoms.
- You or the elder has questions or concerns about his condition or care.
When should I seek immediate care for the elder? Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- The elder develops pressure sores.
- The elder feels like hurting himself or someone else.
- The elder feels that he cannot cope with the abuse, or his recovery from it.
- The elder has shortness of breath, chest pain, or a fast heartbeat.
The elder has the right to help plan his own care. To help with this plan, he must learn about his health condition and how it may be treated. He can then discuss treatment options with his caregivers. Together they can decide what care and treatment may be used. The elder always has the right to refuse treatment.The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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