According to the American Psychological Society, elder abuse is the infliction of physical, emotional/psychological, sexual or financial harm on an older adult. Elder abuse can also take the form of intentional or unintentional neglect of an older adult by the caregiver. Elder abuse has a variety of causes. It is important that family members and caregivers of senior adults be aware of the causes of elder abuse in order to prevent abuse and keep senior loved ones safe and secure.

Elder abuse can occur for a variety of reasons and complex issues. Family stressors are one of the reasons elder abuse occurs. Family members who are charged with caring for a senior family member can often become stressed and run-down dealing with the demands of caring for their loved one. In addition, these family members often feel isolated and do not take time to recharge. These factors can lead to elder abuse. A violent family past can also continue to hold on to family members and this can lead to elder abuse. Financial burdens of a multigenerational household can also lead to financial elder abuse.

Caregiver stress can lead to elder abuse. Caregiving can create stress for the caregiver and the care recipient. This stress can lead to potentially harmful situations for the senior adult. If the caregiver is caring for a person who is sick or physically or mentally impaired, this can lead to stress that would cause a caregiver to abuse the care recipient. The caregiver can feel alone or helpless. Caregiving can lead to emotional and physical stress and exhaustion. These feelings can be overwhelming and may lead to elder abuse.

Certain societal issues can lead to elder abuse. Often senior adults are viewed as insignificant or unimportant. This has in many cases lead to the devaluing of this population, making them easy targets from abuse. This can make the senior more vulnerable to elder abuse. This is evidenced by the fact that scams and financial abuse among the elderly population continues to be a major problem.

How can elder abuse be prevented? Education is one way that elder abuse can be prevented. It is important that caregivers and family members be educated about the risk factors and signs of elder abuse in order to prevent it from occurring. It is also important that families and seniors be aware of financial scams that target the elderly in order to prevent seniors from being taken advantage of financially.

Respite care is also an effective way to prevent elder abuse. There are adult day cares and respite care agencies available to provide care for a few hours a week to take stress off of family members or caregivers. Respite care is especially important for those caring for patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia or are severely disabled. This gives the caregivers time to rest physically, mentally, and emotionally. Along with respite care, it is important for caregivers to maintain social contact and support. Often caregivers are thrust into difficult situations for which they are ill prepared. They often neglect social interactions. It is important not to neglect these interactions, and even to seek support from groups or people who are in a similar caregiving situation. This can help to deal with stresses in caregiving.

Counseling is another option for preventing elder abuse. Caregivers and families alike can benefit from counseling. Counseling can help families deal with past issues, as well as dealing with the emerging stress of caregiving.

Knowing the causes of elder abuse and methods of prevention can help keep elders safe. Family members and caregivers should know and be aware of these. Elder abuse is a major problem and solutions must be found to protect our seniors.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact me.