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What are the risk factors that could lead to elder abuse?

In Ohio as well as other states, far too many elderly individuals fall victim to abuse and neglect. Although the exact numbers are hard to nail down, reports indicate that thousands of elderly people are currently being abused in some fashion each year, and that number is only expected to increase.

Whether the elderly person resides with his or her caregiver or the person is in an institutionalized setting, certain factors seem to increase the risk that the elderly individual will become a victim of elder abuse. In fact, the Ohio Commission on the Prevention of Injury released a report that detailed five risk factors that could predict whether or not an elderly person could experience abuse at the hands of his or her caregiver.

  1. Stress: Taking care of an elderly person with a host of special needs can be tough. Unfortunately, too many caregivers are not given the necessary support to handle such a responsibility, especially when the caregiver is a loved one taking care of an elderly family member. This can lead to high levels of stress, and the caregiver may take out that stress on the elderly person who is in his or her care.

  2. Alcohol and/or substance dependency: In some instances, the caregiver may be addicted to or dependent on alcohol or other substances. Not only can this lead to mistreatment, it can also cause the caregiver to abuse these substances even more.

  3. Violent tendencies or previous violence: If the caregiver is prone to violent outbursts, that person may become violent with the care recipient. Furthermore, if the caregiver and the victim are related and had an abusive relationship in the past, the caregiver may use the opportunity to use violence as a way to get back at his or her elderly relative for past indiscretions.

  4. Emotional and psychiatric illness: If the care recipient suffers from mental disorders, he or she may lash out at the caregiver. In return, the caregiver may respond by neglecting the elder's needs or physically abusing the elderly person as a way to cope with the perceived mistreatment. Those prone to abusive actions may also use an elder's lack of mental acuity as a way to get away with the abuse because the elderly person would not be able to fully and reliably give an account of the abuse.

  5. Dependency and isolation: Elders who need special care are often totally dependent on their caregivers. Unfortunately, the caregiver may use that dependency as a way to abuse the victim physically, emotionally and even financially. Sometimes abusers seek to isolate the elder person to keep the abuse a secret.

Those in Ohio who care for an elderly person know that it is not a task to be taken lightly. However, the caregiver needs the proper training and support to fulfill his or her obligations. Without the proper support, elder abuse can occur, and there are a multitude of warning signs and risk factors that should be taken seriously. If you notice any of these signs and are worried about the care your elderly loved one is receiving, you should contact your area's adult protective services office and contact an attorney experienced with elder care law.

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