Preventing Elder Abuse During and After the Holidays

National Center on Elder Abuse Recommends Assessing Risks of Elder Abuse During Holiday Visits

Regardless of the time of year, elder abuse is a serious issue across the country. However, the holidays may be a particularly important time for those of us with elderly loved ones to be aware of the risks and to remain alert to signs and symptoms of nursing home neglect. According to a publication from the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), many Americans head home for the holidays to spend time with aging parents and other elderly relatives. Given that we tend to have more opportunities at this time of year to observe our loved ones’ living conditions and general well-being, the NCEA recommends spending time at home to ensure that the seniors in your life are healthy and safe.

Abuse can happen in an older adult’s home as well as in assisted-living facilities or nursing homes. Indeed, elder abuse is not limited to one particular type of living environment. As the publication notes, about 1 out of every 10 seniors suffers from elder abuse or neglect, and many of those cases are not reported. The NCEA emphasizes that “the holidays offer a once-a-year time to visit with elderly relatives who live at a distance,” thus making such visits “a good time to assess what assistance parents or other elderly loved ones might need to safely age in their homes.” According to the NCEA publication, it is a good to have a checklist ready for your visit.

If you already suspect abuse before going home, the NCEA recommends planning a visit that is longer than usual—that way, you will have time to properly assess the situation and to contact any authorities or elder care advocates in the area. Spending some extra time with your elderly loved one can also give the seniors in your life an opportunity to discuss their concerns about aging with you and the needs they are likely to have in the future.

Evaluating Your Elderly Loved One’s Health and Safety

When you visit with elderly loved ones, the NCEA recommends some of the following questions you should plan to ask:

  • Does your parent or elderly loved one need assistance with household chores or other housekeeping duties that he or she is not currently getting?
  • Does your parent need help getting to the grocery store or to physician appointments?
  • Is your parent having difficulty with certain activities of daily living, such as dressing or bathing?
  • Is your elderly loved one socializing enough with others?
  • Is your elderly loved one geographically isolated from his or her community due to issues of mobility?
  • If your parent is currently living with a caregiver, does that caregiver have knowledge of the particular needs—from household needs to medication requirements—of your elderly loved one?

If you do suspect elder abuse, do you know the signs and symptoms? The NCEA identifies some of the following as signs of elder neglect or abuse at the hands of others:

  • New person in your elderly loved one’s life who appears too willing to provide care without substantial remuneration;
  • Changing in your elderly loved one’s spending;
  • Isolation from the community;
  • Caregiver who may have substance abuse problems;
  • Caregiver who may be emotionally unstable;
  • Your elderly loved one seems afraid or withdrawn;
  • Unexplained bruises, lacerations, or other visible injuries;
  • Presence of bed sores; and/or
  • Unsanitary living conditions.

It is important to be aware of signs of elder abuse and neglect during and after the holiday season. If you suspect an elderly loved one has suffered injuries, you should contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney.


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