What Should a Caregiver Know About Physical Abuse of an Elder?

As a caregiver, you may be providing actual physical care to your loved one or you may be supervising home healthcare providers or staff members in a facility.

If ANYONE besides you is providing care to your loved one, it is important to examine your loved one for signs of physical abuse, which is, of course, illegal, and should be reported to authorities.

The first rule of thumb is to ask the care recipient if anyone is hurting them. (This should be done when hired caregivers are not within hearing distance.) Observe their reaction when they answer.  Their body language may say more than their words.

Look for bruising, bumps (especially on the head), blood on clothing, bedsheets or furniture.  Do keep in mind though that many seniors may be taking prescription blood thinners which can cause bruising and bleeding, so if your care recipient is capable of answering, just ask them what happened. If they cannot speak for themselves, investigate further.

Seniors also may be prone to falls and while this is not abuse, it is important to note, because they may require additional care and/or a doctor’s visit to determine why this is happening. If falling is frequent, are there safely precautions in place?

If your loved one is bed-ridden, or spends a great deal of time sitting propped in a wheelchair, check for signs of skin break-down.  This can be a sign that they are not being turned (neglected) and that is also considered physical abuse.

Are they being cleaned appropriately?

Is there unexplained weight loss?  Are they being provided enough fluids and nutritious foods?  Are their caregivers taking the time to sit with them and help with feeding or is the food just being discarded. (Look through the trash if they are being cared for at home.)  Show up at mealtimes if the loved one is being cared for a facility to determine if staff members are assisting with the meal of if the food tray is just being left at the bedside.  Is there water within reach?

If your loved one is on oxygen, where is it?  Are they wearing their cannula or is it on the floor or rolled up on the oxygen container?

If your loved one is being cared for by hired professionals, the more time that you, a family member or a designated advocate spend with your loved one, the better.  It is a sad but true fact that the more a family visits their loved one, the more important that elder will be perceived and the better the care they will get.

You’re most welcome to use this article on your website, blog or in your e-zine if you include this entire blurb, without modification: If you liked this article by Shelley Webb, you’ll want to hop on over to www.IntentionalCaregiver.com where you can find more articles, resources and support for caregivers of aging parents and loved ones.   Geriatric care manager, Shelley Webb has been  a registered nurse for over 30 years and was blessed to have cared for her father in her home for more than 4 years.


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