We all have the right to feel and be safe, regardless of our age or circumstances, so you may be surprised to know that incident reports of abuse towards older people are increasing and many are not reported. It is therefore important that you are vigilant to ensure older people are safe and treated with the dignity and respect they have a right to and deserve.
Unfortunately I come across abuse all too often and typically nothing has been done about it until I ask the following question ” Would you report the matter if your concerns related to a child? Why should it be different for older people?”
A definition of elder abuse
Action on Elder Abuse, defines abuse as: “A single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to another person”
Elder abuse is a complex issue
Elder abuse is a complex issue and often involves more than one type of abuse. For example financial abuse may also involve emotional abuse if someone is being threatened as well as complying with inappropriate demands for money.
Over the next few weeks we will look at the different categories of elder abuse that you are likely to come across in relation to older people in a bit more detail so that you know what you are looking for.
Lets begin with neglect.
What is neglect?
Neglect is a form of abuse whereby people responsible for providing care for someone who is unable to look after themselves, fail to meet their needs. Neglect can be intentional or can occur as a result of not understanding what the person’s needs are. Under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, wilful neglect and ill treatment became a criminal offence.
Neglect occurs when there is failure to provide food, shelter, clothing, heating, medical care, hygiene or personal care, and the inappropriate use of medication. Examples could include not giving someone proper assistance with eating and drinking, or failure to provide a warm, safe and comfortable environment, failing to provide adequate personal care or ignoring someone’s health needs. Repeated calls for assistance may be ignored or someone’s care plan may not be read or followed.
Possible signs of neglect are:
•Urine smell in a person’s environment
•Lack of stimulation or prolonged isolation
•Person has unkempt appearance or is dressed inappropriately
•Signs of malnourishment or dehydration
•Person has untreated medical condition
•Not being helped to the toilet when assistance is requested.
•Home has insufficient or no heating
•Under or over medication.
Rose has Alzheimer’s and lives in a specialist care home for people with dementia. Her only relative, Paula, is unable to visit very often as she lives more than a hundred miles away and works long hours. When Paula visits her aunt she is concerned to find that Rose does not have her own dress on and it is too big for her. Her hair had been cut badly and not been styled and her lower dentures were missing. Paula is aware of a strong smell of urine in the home and observed that her aunt was wearing an incontinence pad that needed changing. The most worrying thing for Paula was that her aunt appeared depressed and withdrawn.
Rose’s care was clearly being neglected and her niece was advised to report the matter to the Safeguarding Team at Social Services
What to do if you are concerned about elder abuse
If you are concerned or have a concern about someone else about harm or abuse and think the danger is immediate phone the police now on 999!
If it is less urgent, you can phone the local police or contact the Local Authority Adult Safeguarding Team. You will find these numbers on-line or in a telephone directory.