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Kim Cooksey
Kim Cooksey
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Elder Abuse – A Serious Problem

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When I was in high school, my thoughts of what the elderly were like centered around my grandparents. They were healthy, able to take care of large yards and gardens and tend to the grandchildren to boot! However, as I have aged and become more immersed in my nursing career, I have come to realize that this view was skewed. Not all individuals in this age group have this lifestyle.

I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to work in two very prestigious fields, the legal field and nursing. In so doing, I have come across instances of elder abuse. There are several types of abuse which are recognized in both practice fields. “Elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. The specificity of laws varies from state to state, but broadly defined, abuse may be:

  • Physical Abuse – Inflicting, or threatening to inflict, physical pain or injury on a vulnerable elder, or depriving them of a basic need.
  • Emotional Abuse – Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts.
  • Sexual Abuse – Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
  • Exploitation – Illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a vulnerable elder.
  • Neglect – Refusal or failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care or protection for a vulnerable elder.
  • Abandonment – The desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.”

For those who work in the medical field, if signs of abuse are noted, we are mandated to report them to the appropriate authorities and it becomes a legal issue at that point. I urge those of you who come into contact with the geriatric population to look for signs of abuse and if they are found, please notify the appropriate authorities.