Have you ever wondered why your mother seems distant, withdrawn or sad? Or why she constantly gets bed soars? Or why her caregiver never leaves her side when you're around?
As our parents age, the risk that they get financially, emotionally, physically or verbally abused dramatically increases. In fact, some research indicates that at least 1 in 10 older adults get abused or exploited each year, with far fewer never reporting the crime due to fear, shame, isolation or cognitive decline.
The risks of abuse are real. As our parents age, they'll rely on others for help more frequently, opening up their homes, finances and legal documents to others people's eyes. They often experience mental decline, clouding their judgement and memory. And they'll often depend on others for care, which in some cases leads to frustration, anger, resentment and abuse from caregivers.
Signs Your Mother's Being Abused
Here's a list of some of the things you should keep an eye on to ensure your mother's being treated properly:
Top 5 warning signs of financial abuse and exploitation:
- Sudden interest of typically uninvolved family members, friends or strangers
- A sudden change in legal documents, financial accounts or financial account practices (i.e. change in a will, additional names added to bank accounts, financial statement mailing address change, non-habitual ATM withdrawals or credit card expenses)
- Disappearance of valuable possessions or funds (i.e. jewelry, silverware, accessories, cash, check books, etc...)
- Unpaid bills, delinquency notices, collection notices, cancelled phone, cable or utility services
- Use of services that are not needed
Top 5 warning sign of neglect:
- Looks unkempt (i.e. dirty clothing, unbrushed hair, soiled sheets, unpleasant odor, etc...)
- Medically unexplained weight loss or dehydration
- Constant urinary tract infections, vaginitis, or burning from poor hygiene care
- Prescription medications are missing or not being used or filled at expected rate
- Develops bed soars, boils, pressure ulcers or other wounds from immobility
Top 5 warning signs of physical abuse:
- Unexplained bruises, scratches, fractures, bite marks, slap marks or burns
- Change in mood or typical disposition (anxious, withdrawn, depressed)
- Caregiver won't leave your mother's side while your present
- Medical attention is not sought after injury
- Soft tissue injuries inside the mouth, possible sign of force feeding
Top 5 warning signs of verbal or emotional abuse:
- Seems depressed, anxious or confused
- Shows signs of trauma, like rocking back and forth
- Caregiver isolates your mother, avoids her being with you alone
- You notice the caregiver being controlling, aggressive or demeaning to your mother
- Does not participate in her usual activities, seems withdrawn
How to Protect Your Mother
Looking out for the signs of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation are just some of the steps you can take to protect your mother.
To prevent abuse from happening in the first place, here are just a few suggestions:
- Screen your mother's caregivers with background and reference checks
- Make your presence felt and noticed through frequent calls and visits
- Give family caregiver frequent breaks so they remain physically and emotionally fresh
- Consider installing a highly visible nanny cam with audio
- Attend meetings with financial planners and accountants
- Teach your mother about different senior financial and telemarketing scams
- Spot check her bank statements and bills (perhaps do it with another sibling to avoid the appearance of impropriety)
Keep safe and don't hesitate to ask any questions, we'd love to help!