Physical Abuse

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What is Physical Abuse?

Physical Abuse: the intentional use of physical force that results in acute or chronic illness, bodily injury, physical pain, functional impairment, distress, or death. Physical abuse may include, but is not limited to, violent acts such as striking (with or without an object or weapon), hitting, beating, scratching, biting, choking, suffocation, pushing, shoving, shaking, slapping, kicking, stomping, pinching, and burning.

Maltreatment of the Elderly

Elder maltreatment falls in the category of physical abuse, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is defined as any type of abuse or neglect that is perpetrated against those individuals who are 60 years of age or more.

Physical abuse against the elderly may be perpetrated by an acquaintance, doctor, nurse, caregiver, family member or another individual in the life of an elderly person. According to the US National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA), most perpetrators of elder physical abuse are unemployed, single and live with the elder in their own home.

While neglect is the most common form of abuse in the elderly at fifty-five percent, about 1.5 percent of abuse is of the physical type. This statistic may not seem daunting at first, but it still involves thousands of elderly people each year.

There are several different types of physical abuse that can happen to an elderly person.

This can include the following:

  • Cigarette burns

  • Scratching the elder

  • Biting the elder

  • Being slapped

  • Being shoved

  • Being struck

  • Being pushed

  • Using restraints inappropriately

  • Threatening the elder with weapons, such as knives, guns or blunt objects

Defining the maltreatment of the elderly and the need to improve upon these definitions are important issues to both the NCPEA and the CDC. Part of the problem is that it is difficult to tell the difference between elder abuse and elder self-neglect.

The difference between the two is that self-neglect is perpetrated on the individual by themselves and is a result of their own actions, while the maltreatment of seniors involves the intentional infliction of physical harm to the elder by someone else. Without having clear definitions of these two types of physical abuse, the elderly remains at risk of suffering from harm that is not reported.

The typical behavioral indicators that an elderly person is being abused include the following:

  • Scalding burns

  • Cigarette burns

  • Burns from appliances

  • Rope, strap burns or abrasions

  • Internal injuries

  • Evidence that the elder is treating their injuries alone

  • Bruises that go around the elder’s arms

  • Bruises at different stages

  • Tooth loss

  • Traumatic hair loss from having hair pulled out

  • Broken bones

  • Sprains

  • Dislocated joints

The main physical signs that the elderly person is being abused include the following:

  • A history of hospitalizations, often for injuries that are the same or similar to other injuries

  • A delay in receiving medical care for an injury the elder receives

  • Trips to various emergency rooms to avoid detection of abuse

  • Unreasonable explanations as to how the elder received an injury

  • Strained relationships between caregiver and elder

  • Elder withdrawal from usual activities or social activities the elder usually enjoys

Preventing Physical Abuse against the Elderly

Elder physical abuse can be prevented by staff at a nursing facility, staff at an assisted living facility or family members of the elder. Family members should visit the elder frequently and should take note of patterns of behavioral and social behavior that indicate the possibility of abuse.

The elder’s physical condition should be monitored so that the risk of physical abuse is diminished. It is okay to talk with the elder to find out their concerns. Family members should also pay attention to any medications the elder is taking.

The elder can also prevent abuse against themselves. They should stay in touch with family and friends and keep track of their finances as much as possible. If the individual feels that he or she is being abused, it is important to talk to someone about it or to report it to the authorities

If you need help

Visit One Place Family Justice Center at 530 S. Lawrence Street, Montgomery, Alabama or call 334.262.7378 or if you are in immediate danger Call 911.

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