WHAT TO DO ABOUT ELDER ABUSE
What should you do when you discover elder abuse happening in a home or institution? No matter what course you take, the key is to not wait before stopping elder abuse. Recognize the signs and symptoms and act immediately using the following steps:
TIPS FOR STOPPING ELDER ABUSE
- Find out about conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, that are common among older people so that you will understand why the person in your care behaves the way he does.
- Know and respect the rights of older people. For example, older people have the right to make decisions about their care.
- Attend information sessions on elder abuse if they are offered by your employer. If you feel that you need further training, let your manager know. Some areas of interest may be stress management, dealing with difficult people, getting along well with families, assertiveness, resident rights, or conflict resolution.
- Ask for help if you do not feel comfortable dealing with a certain situation.
- If you find it difficult to deal with the challenging behaviors of certain people, talk to your supervisor. It may also be helpful to be co-assigned with a colleague who is not having those challenges. Observe the techniques they use. Ask questions.
- If you find that you are impatient with someone, talk to your supervisor. Perhaps another assignment can be arranged. If not, ask about techniques that might help.
- Are you concerned about your working conditions? If so, talk to your supervisor about the issues. Offer suggestions for change. Sometimes even small changes can make a difference.
- Do you think it might be helpful to have a support group at work? If yes, talk to your colleagues and your supervisor.
- Try to develop a positive and helpful attitude at work. You are more likely to have a pleasant day if you have a positive approach. As well, others will be happier to be around you.
Anyone can and should report elder abuse.
- If you suspect abuse of an older person, report the incident to your supervisor. You do not have to be absolutely certain that someone is being abused before you report it. Abusive incidents tend to get worse over time. By reporting known and suspected incidents, you may prevent more serious incidents from happening in future by stopping elder abuse in its tracks.
- Listen carefully if an older person tells you that he or she is being abused. Offer support and reassurance. Assure the person that you will help. Inform your supervisor. Sometimes an older person may decide not to do anything about the abusive incident(s). For example, an older woman in a nursing home may decide to ignore the fact that her grandson steals money from her purse on each visit. Older people who are capable of making their own informed decisions have the right to decide for themselves. They can choose to live with the abuse or to do something about it.
- Healthcare agencies have policies and guidelines for reporting client abuse. Find out about the policies and guidelines in your agency. Follow these policies to report the abuse. Know your legal requirements.
- Do not delay in reporting the abuse. If you suspect abuse, report it at once.
- Put your report in writing. Outlined below are general guidelines for a written report of abuse:
- Include information about the victim.
- Include information about the suspected abuser.
- Include the date that you are writing the report.
- Include the date and time of the incident.
- Give details about what happened.
- Include details about where the incident occurred.
- Include only “the facts” of the incident in your report.
- If you are making the report in follow-up to a complaint by an older person, record the exact words he or she used.
- Your agency may have specific guidelines on how to write these reports. Ensure that you follow those directions.
Is elder abuse a crime according to the law? That depends on the country, state, province, or territory you live in. In the United States, for example, most physical, sexual, and financial abuses are crimes in all states. Some emotional abuse and cases of neglect are also against the law. Most states have laws that require certain professionals or other caregivers to report suspected elder abuse or neglect.
Most elder abuse in Canada is considered a crime punishable under the Criminal Code. Laws in some provinces and territories require healthcare workers to report abuse within facilities directly to a public authority. As well, some provinces require public reporting of abuse of an adult in the community.
You need to know about the laws where you live. Your employer’s policies on abuse may contain that information. You can also search for the information from various information sources such as those included in this book. You can also consult with your supervisor.
Most areas have laws that protect the identity of the person who reports abuse. In other words, if you report abuse, the suspected abuser will not be told your name or where you live. There are also laws in many places that protect the person reporting abuse from being sued.