Elder Abuse and Educating Caregivers

Helping Caregivers to Help the Elderly through Education

Old Guy

How can caregivers best spot patterns of elder abuse after their loved ones return from medical appointments or adult daycare?  And how should caregivers handle older adults who act abusively toward medical staff or other persons involved in their care and treatment?  According to a recent news report from Aging Today, a bimonthly newspaper published by the American Society on Aging, elderly caregivers in America aren’t provided with sufficient education about elder abuse.

The news report recently made it into the hands of Californians with the help of the Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse & Neglect.  The Center, housed at the University of California, Irvine, seeks to bridge the academic side of elder neglect with important issues of medical and legal practice.  In addition to conducting research, the Center aims to provide education to California residents and other community members by hosting the Elder Abuse Training Institute, which “identifies the most pressing training needs in elder mistreatment.”  The educational programs are interdisciplinary, moving among medical, sociological, and legal issues.

Caregivers Often Lack Key Information About Elder Care and Abuse

According to the news report, elderly caregivers need to be clearly educated about elder abuse.  The author of the report, Mary Twomey, begins with an analogy that most American adults can understand: after having a baby, new parents are provided with clear information about Shaken Baby Syndrome and how to recognize child abuse.  “Designed to alert new parents to the warning signs of child abuse,” Twomey explains, “the materials do not judge parents for the frustration or anger they feel when, say, their baby won’t stop crying.”  Instead, such materials simply “send a clear message that child abuse is unacceptable, explain its consequences, provide tips on how to handle [parents’] feelings and information on where to turn for help.”  However, elderly caregivers rarely—if ever—receive any kind of educational materials like these, and they’re desperately needed.

In particular, caregivers can become especially lost when caring for an older adult with a disability.  According to Twomey, these caregivers “will tell you no one has ever spoken to them about the warning signs of abuse and neglect.”  Indeed, none of the materials caregivers receive when they take their elderly loved ones to a medical appointment, including information about medications, drug interactions, etc., ever “tells them that one in 10 community-dwelling older Americans becomes a victim of abuse or neglect.”  And perhaps even more troubling is the fact that no routine services provide information about “how aggressive some care recipients can be toward those providing care.”

By failing to tackle these educational issues head-on, our society suggests that, unlike matters of childcare and child abuse, nursing home abuse and neglect isn’t safe to talk about and isn’t an urgent matter.  Yet this kind of dialogue is desperately needed.

According to a study conducted by the University of California, Irvine, we need to begin talking with caregivers about elder care and elder abuse, making clear the risk factors for abuse, and providing information about and access to resources for caregivers.  Without a sustained interest in educating elderly caregivers, Twomey suggests that California won’t be able to make noticeable progress toward quelling nursing home abuse and neglect.

If your elderly loved one has sustained injuries as a result of elder abuse, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer.  The injury attorneys at the Walton Law Firm can help.

See Related Blog Posts:

Reassignment of Los Angeles County Nursing Home Supervisor

Online Map to Track Elder Financial Abuse

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