Domestic violence and other forms of abuse are common in our society and are not reported nearly as often as it occurs. It is estimated that at least 75% of abuse cases involving a disabled adult are never reported. I want you to think of every news story you have come across about a disabled/elderly person being abused, now consider there are at least 3 more unheard stories for each of those cases. Why is this happening? It’s time to take a stand and be advocates for those who need us the most.
Physical abuse is pretty obvious right? They would tell me! You’re wrong. There is a great burden of shame that comes with being abused. What did I do to deserve this treatment? Threats of further harm to the victim often keep victims quiet. I deserve this because of the stress I put them under. No one deserves to be mistreated. Look for signs of nervousness, a withdrawal from physical contact, and physical signs such as bruises or injuries.
Financial abuse can be harder to pick up on when the abuser is someone who provides other aid to the victim. Many people with a severe disability do not handle their own finances and will be wiped out financially before anyone ever notices there is a problem. Stay on top of your loved one’s finances by doing a simple monthly check of cash outflow. Ask all caregivers to provide receipts for any purchases made.
Unfortunately disabled individuals truly are vulnerable adults. This leads them to being much more susceptible to being preyed upon sexually. It is estimated that 4-5% of disabled individuals will become the victims of sexual abuse during their lifetime. Abuse can be classified as inappropriate touching during cares to full blown rape and sodomy. Common signs of sexual abuse in adults are drastic changes in behavior and sleep, a regression of skills and lowered levels of independent functioning, withdrawal, and self harming behaviors. If you receive information or suspect that your loved one has been the victim of sexual abuse notify the authorities as soon as possible. The sooner a therapeutic treatment plan is in place the better off the victim.
Verbal abuse is the most common form of abuse that the disabled suffer from at the hands of their caregivers. You may be guilty of it yourself and be completely unaware of the damage you are causing to the disabled individual. Threats of violence are often times as bad as the acts of violence themselves. I could smack you for this! No one should live in fear. Name calling is abuse. Why are you such an “idiot”? If you can not handle the stress of providing care you should not be handling the job. Monitor your caregivers and make sure they are always using an appropriate demeanor when handling your loved one.
Neglect and abandonment are serious concerns for anyone with health issues. Caregivers who do not show up for their shift and leave individuals in bed all day unattended. Lack of attention being paid to personal cares will lead to very serious skin issues quickly. Individuals being deprived of food who are unable to cook for themselves. Neglect is very easy to prevent. Get involved! Call and check in with your loved one. Show up at their residence if you are unable to reach them by phone. Do not rely on the word of a caregiver when you can speak to the individual themselves. If you’re not within a close distance you can always call the local police department and ask for a well person safety check. They will send a police officer to the residence to make sure that no one is stuck alone and abandoned.
Not all of these crimes can be prevented even with the most diligent of eyes. However, you can greatly reduce the odds of your loved one becoming a statistic by staying involved in the management of all workers providing care. A watchful eye is the most effective deterrent to abuse. Do your research before allowing a facility to provide care for your loved one. Run background checks including criminal records and demand that all workers have clearances before allowing them to work in the home. Place a nanny cam in the home in a noninvasive spot that includes audio. If you suspect abuse notify the authorities immediately. It has been proven time and time again that many victims will not take the needed steps to protect themselves. Do your part to ensure that all individuals are treated with respect and care.