Adult Abuse Defined
Adult abuse generally refers to mistreatment of an older person by someone who has a special relationship with the elder such as a spouse, sibling, child, friend, or caregiver. Abuse may take the form of one or all of the following: physical, financial or emotional abuse, neglect or abandonment. Abuse includes the willful infliction of serious pain or injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or forced sexual contact.
Typically, the abuser is a relative, frequently an adult child of the victim. The abusers may suffer from alcohol or drug abuse. Sometimes the abusers were abused as children. The abuser may be emotionally unstable. Sometimes, the caregiver can no longer cope with a stressful situation and does not know where to turn for help.
Many who suffer from abuse may feel ashamed and embarrassed and suffer from low self esteem. Some don't want to report their own child as an abuser. Often the abused simply fears more abuse if they report it. Others are too feeble to think clearly, or they may not realize that help is available.
You Can Help
It's up to you to break the silence. Certain people are required by law to report abusers. They are conservators and guardians, court-appointed mental retardation advocates, police officers, licensed health professionals, health care administrators and social workers. Others such as neighbors, church members, relatives, and friends may report voluntarily. Persons reporting voluntarily need not identify themselves.
Who to Call
Call the hotline at (202) 541-3950. More victims are helped by callers outside the family than in it. When you call the hotline, a social worker will assist you. The social worker will take information about your concerns and will conduct an investigation to determine if abuse, neglect, or exploitation is occurring. Sometimes medical or psychiatric care helps resolve the problem. In other cases, services can be provided to victims in their homes or they can be removed from danger.
If the investigation indicates that a person is in need of protection, a variety of services may be made available to them. Social workers may arrange for counseling, legal services, emergency placement, and/or medical services.
Remember, the person you are worried about can refuse intervention. The merely eccentric will be left in peace. And your identity will be protected, because reports are confidential.