The risk of hearing loss increases with age, and unfortunately, so does the risk of abuse. Tragically, according to a 2017 report published by the Center for Disease Control, 10% of people over age 60 experience elder abuse. This abuse is rarely reported.
Audiologists are mandated reporters, which means that we are required by law to report suspected abuse or neglect to the authorities. This applies to not only children, but also to protected populations, including the elderly and people with disabilities. The elderly make up a large portion of most audiologists’ clientele. That means there is a high probability that many audiologists are treating least one elderly patient who has experienced or is experiencing abuse or neglect.
According to statistics from the American Psychological Association, most victims of elder abuse are female, and most perpetrators of elder abuse are male. The most common perpetrators include adult children of the victim, the victim’s spouses or partners, and other family members. Institutional abuse, such as abuse that occurs in nursing homes, is also a nationwide concern (American Psychological Association, 2019).
In order to help identify if an elderly patient is experiencing abuse, audiologists must be able to recognize what elder abuse looks like. The National Council on Aging explain what different types of abuse may look like in elderly people:
- Physical abuse: frequent bruising, broken bones, burns, or other markings
- Emotional abuse: a sudden change in behavior, social withdrawal, signs of depression, a strained relationship with caregiver or family members
- Financial abuse: sudden and unexplained change in a senior’s financial situation
- Neglect: weight loss, bedsores, poor hygiene, clear unmet medical needs
Elder abuse is a growing and deadly problem in the United States. Audiologists regularly see elderly patients and caregivers, which means that they have the opportunity to save the life of a senior if they suspect and report elder abuse.
When reporting suspected abuse, you do not need to prove that abuse is occurring- all you need to do is call and answer a few simple questions about what you observed. For more information on how to report elder abuse, visit the National Center on Elder Abuse or search the internet to find elder abuse reporting hotlines in your state.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, June 5). Elder Abuse Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/features/elderabuse/index.html
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Elder Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/pi/prevent-violence/resources/elder-abuse
National Council on Aging. (n.d.). Elder Abuse Statistics & Facts. Retrieved from https://www.ncoa.org/public-policy-action/elder-justice/elder-abuse-facts/
Emily Waller is a second year AuD student at Northern Illinois University. She currently serves as the state of Illinois Student Ambassador for the SAA.
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