Returning Home Can Put Elder Abuse Victims at Risk

Older adults who suffer injuries and are hospitalized as a result of abuse are more likely to be abused again if they are female, widowed, have dementia or return home to live with their abusers.

According to a new study out of the University of Illinois at Chicago, even though 13 per cent of elder abuse cases involve physical or sexual abuse, less than 10 per cent are reported.  It has been unclear what the risk factors were for seniors to be abused repeatedly, but new research makes a clear link between returning to live with the abuser and repeat assault.

The Chicago study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reviewed cases of abuse among adults over the age of 60 between 2000 and 2011.  More than half of the 111 cases reported repeat abuse after leaving the hospital and nearly 80 per cent were seniors who lived in a private residence with their abuser.  Most frequently victims were abused physically by a husband, boyfriend, son or son-in-law.

The study calls for better hospital reporting of abuse and improved education for health care workers to screen for abuse and raise awareness of the risk factors for repeat abuse.  By connecting elder abuse victims with community resources, alternative living arrangements could be made, helping to avoid repeat victimization.

Signs of Elder Abuse

  • Unexplained bruises, burn or scars
  • Person becomes withdrawn
  • Individual stops taking part in enjoyed activities
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Signs of trauma – rocking back and forth
  • Acting agitated or violent
  • Depression or confusion
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Unwashed clothing, not keeping up with daily hygiene

Source:  National Institute on Aging

If you notice any of these signs of abuse in an older friend or family member, get help by talking with a community agency or doctor.  If someone is in urgent danger, call 911 or local police for immediate help.

To read more follow this link to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.