July 2015 | Wesley Hospice

What Is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is more common than you might think. Elder abuse is any form of mistreatment that results in harm or loss to an older person. Unfortunately, elder abuse continues to increase and is a serious problem in our society. There are variations in the definition of elder abuse, and because there is no reporting system in place, it is difficult to determine the scope of this issue. In general, elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing, intentional or negligent act by a caregiver or any entity that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.

Laws and definitions of terms defining elder abuse vary considerably from one state to another; however, legislatures in all 50 states have passed some form of elder abuse prevention laws. Many elderly adults are abused in their own homes, in relatives’ homes, and even in facilities responsible for their care. As elders become physically frail, they are less likely to stand up to bullying and/or fight back if attacked.

There are several characteristics of elder abuse, some involving intimidation or threats against the elderly, some involving neglect, and others involving financial chicanery. The most common are defined below.

  • Physical abuse is non-accidental use of force against an elderly person that results in physical pain, injury or impairment.
  • Emotional abuse, sometimes called psychological abuse, can include a caregiver saying hurtful words, yelling, threatening or repeatedly ignoring the older person. Keeping the person from seeing close friends and relatives is another form of emotional abuse.
  • Neglect occurs when the caregiver does not try to respond to the older person’s needs.
  • Abandonment is leaving a senior alone without planning for his or her care.
  • Self-neglect and behaviors that threaten the elder’s health or safety. They may appear increasingly disheveled, lack of basic personal hygiene, or their home may become dirty and un-kept.

Elder abuse is a devastating reality for many older Americans, and unfortunately, it often goes unreported. If you or someone you know is being abused by a family member, a health-care provider or caregiver, don’t be afraid to speak up to someone you feel you can trust, who can assist you in putting an end to the abuse.

Hospice Services 101

If the time comes when you or a loved one requires hospice care, and you are unsure of the services that hospice can provide, then I hope the research and information provided below will be helpful in making your decision to call hospice.

My family had to reach out to hospice 15 years ago for my mother after we were told she was nearing the end of her battle with lung cancer. After three years, the time came for us to call hospice, and we had no idea of the services that hospice care offered. For many terminally ill patients, both the patient and their families want to ensure that their loved one is going to live out the rest of his/her life in a dignified and comfortable atmosphere. Respect and a compassionate touch are precisely what was provided to my mother by her hospice team.

Hospice care focuses on all aspects of a patient’s life, including physical, social, emotional and spiritual well-being. In the case of my mother, individuals in the late stages of life can be eligible for hospice services. Though specific hospice service amenities may differ, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid require hospice organizations to incorporate a hospice interdisciplinary group or IDG. At a minimum, IDG must include a hospice medical doctor, registered nurse, social worker and a Chaplin or counselor. Additional team members may consist of a volunteer coordinator and community relations personnel.

Your hospice team will develop a care plan tailored to your loved one’s individual needs for pain management and relief of symptoms. The hospice team also provides all necessary palliative drugs and therapies, medical supplies and equipment. Some families decide to keep their loved one at home. In those cases, a family member acts as the primary caregiver while supervised by professional medical staff personnel. Hospice team members make regular visits to assess the patient and provide additional care and services, such as clinical and dietary assistance, light housekeeping and therapeutic massages, just to name a few. Hospice teams also offer emotional and spiritual support to the person’s loved ones, as well as grief counseling when the time comes.

All members of your hospice team are responsible for specific duties and are trained to walk alongside you and your loved one, ensuring the family is as comfortable as possible while facing challenges. Here are the services each member offers:

  • Physicians: This may be the patient’s personal physician or a hospice physician who are responsible for controlling pain and other symptoms of terminal illnesses. They will prescribe medications and other methods of pain and symptom control.
  • Registered Nurses: They maintain the patient’s comfort. They perform frequent assessments of the patient, and family members provide the necessary support.
  • State Tested Nursing Assistants (STNA) and Home Health Aides: Provide personal care and help the patient and family with their daily needs. STNAs and Home Health Aides often provide companionship and emotional support.
  • Social Workers: Assist in coordinating community resources that are often needed to help with the non-medical concerns of the family.
  • Spiritual Counselors and Chaplains: Support patients and families in coping with end-of-life spiritual questions and concerns.
  • Bereavement Coordinators: Provide grief support to patient and family.
  • Hospice also provides medications and incontinence supplies necessary to promote comfort at home or in facility settings.

Hospice staff members are available by phone 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. For more information about hospice care at Wesley Hospice, contact our front desk today.