As your parents age it is vital to look out for signs of potential elder abuse. According to the CDC, around 1 in 10 people aged 60 or older who live at home experience some form of abuse. Elder abuse can include anything from the more easily spotted issues like physical abuse and neglect, to more difficult to spot problems like financial abuse. Your parent may be reluctant to approach you to report abuse for many reasons commonly, fear of losing independence and embarrassment. So, it is vital to be proactive and help to prevent the abuse from ever occurring. Although there is no way to ensure your loved one will not endure elder abuse there are steps you can take to help prevent. This blog addresses 4 steps you can take that can help prevent elder abuse.
The first and most vital step in preventing abuse is education. Knowing the signs of elder abuse and how to differentiate them from the normal aging process is of the utmost importance. There are many great online resources and training programs available that will help you to recognize the signs and symptoms of elder abuse.
The signs of physical abuse and neglect, though easier to spot than financial abuse, can present themselves in more covert ways. For example, a sudden change in the behavior of the elder or a caretaker refusing to allow a visitor to see the elder alone could indicate abuse or neglect.
Spotting the signs of financial abuse can be more difficult. Common signs of financial abuse include: the elder being offered care in exchange for property or access to bank accounts, sudden changes to the elder’s will, the elder being afraid to speak in front of a caregiver, and the elder receiving care far beyond the level they require.
Establishing good communication is essential in preventing elder abuse. If your parent feels they can speak to you freely about any topic, it will be easier for you to catch elder abuse in its early stages.
It can also be helpful to speak with your parent about their wishes regarding financial, medical, and caretaking decisions before it becomes a necessity. Once medical issues or the need for a caretaker arise, the situation can become very stressful. So, knowing your parent’s wishes beforehand can ensure smooth transitions and reduce the chances of them getting taken advantage of.
Providing Breaks for Caregivers
If your parent has a caregiver, scheduling time to give them breaks can be helpful in preventing elder abuse. Even the most patient caregivers can get frustrated when they feel overworked. Providing breaks by either caring for your parent yourself, creating a rotating schedule, or even enrolling your parent in an adult day care program from time to time can help to decrease the burden on the caregiver. By decreasing the caregiver’s burden, you decrease the chances of them lashing out against your loved one.
Power of Attorney
The final and perhaps most powerful step you can take to prevent elder abuse is obtaining power of attorney. Power of attorney allows you or a third party to act as an agent on your parent’s behalf. It can be especially helpful in preventing or stopping financial abuse. There are five main types of power of attorney: general, medical, durable, limited, and springing. Each of these types allows the agent to perform different functions on behalf of your parent or loved one.
General power of attorney is comprehensive. The agent will have the power to act on your parent’s behalf financially and legally. This type of power of attorney terminates when the parent becomes mentally or physically disabled or otherwise incapacitated.
Medical power of attorney allows the agent to make medical decisions on behalf of your parent in the event they become mentally or physically disabled.
Durable power of attorney gives the agent the power to act on your parent’s behalf financially and legally. It does not terminate if your parent becomes incapacitated.
Limited power of attorney gives the agent the authority to handle a specific matter, nothing more.
Finally, springing power of attorney is set up prior to it being a necessity and goes into effect once your parent is declared incompetent.
If you decide to obtain power of attorney, a lawyer can help you decide what is right for your family.
Elder abuse is unfortunately a fairly a common issue. These are just some of the ways you can work to prevent your parent from suffering from elder abuse. Whether you decide to take a training program or do your own research, education and communication are vital when preventing abuse. If you suspect your parent or loved one is suffering from elder abuse in Texas you can call 9-1-1 or report non-emergency situations at txabusehotline.org.