Whether you’ve recently experienced trauma or are still recovering from trauma that happened a long time ago, if you’re an elder, you’ll need to take steps to protect yourself from another danger that could harm you—elder abuse. Below we’ll discuss what elder abuse is and what you can do to protect yourself as a trauma survivor.
Let’s first explore one of the most common but least talked about abuses elders experience—emotional abuse. As a trauma survivor you may be particularly impacted by this type of abuse so you’ll need to be proactive about recognizing it. Below are some of the ways that elders may be psychologically abused:
Intimidation – Threats of violence and being made to live in fear are some of the most common ways abusers intimidate elders. Intimidation can also include threats of financial punishment, emotional withdrawal, or the withdrawal of care.
Humiliation – Humiliation can come in many forms—embarrassing an elder in front of others, leaving them in soiled clothing or diapers, forcing them to do things against their will, or verbally putting the elder down.
Isolation – Keeping an elder isolated from friends and family is another form of emotional that’s often used to keep control of the elder and their financial assets.
If you’re an elder or just transitioning into your older years, be on the watch for signs of abuse. Don’t second guess your instincts. It’s your instincts that will help you prevent or stop abuse. As a trauma survivor, don’t be afraid to distance yourself from or cut off completely, anyone who gives even a hint of being abusive.
Unfortunately, our world is filled with people who will financially take advantage of vulnerable elders. This becomes easier to do if the elder has been emotionally abused and thrown off guard psychologically. Below are some signs that someone may be attempting to financially exploit you:
Promises of fast riches. Many abusers use financial scams to trap elders and steal their money. If anyone (including loved ones) claims to have some great investment that will make you millions, be wary, they may be trying to financially abuse you. Check out any investment opportunities thoroughly before you hand over your hard earned cash.
Theft. While most people think of theft as something direct—i.e. someone stealing money out of a wallet or breaking into someone’s home—most theft in elder abuse situations are more subtle. If your caretaker or loved one repeatedly “borrows” money without your permission, writes checks against your account without your approval, or uses your credit cards without your prior authorization, that is stealing, and it could be a sign of bigger financial abuses to come.
Negligence. The other side of financial abuse is neglect. If you’ve handed over responsibility for your finances to someone else, watch for signs that they are failing in their duties. If bills are paid late or allowed to fall into default this is another form is financial abuse.
If you want to protect yourself from financial abuse, plan ahead. Create a living will so that you’ve already chosen a responsible person to take care of your finances just in case you’re unable to do it yourself due to illness.
If you’re hit, pushed, shoved, or restrained against your will, that’s physical abuse. Since most elders are not strong enough to physically defend against physical attacks you’ll need to be on the lookout for these types of abusers. Generally speaking, anyone who is controlling is potentially physically abusive. And anyone who has physically harmed you in the past will most likely do it again. Carefully choose your caretakers—run background checks, speak to references etc—so you can decrease the chances of facing abuse.
Remember, any type of abuse can create new trauma or worsen it, so protect yourself from those who prey on elders.