Although not widely acknowledged by society at large, the problem of elder abuse has slowly worsened over the past decade. The elderly are often disenfranchised, lacking a
voice, unable to care for themselves, and unable to defend themselves from injustice, which puts the population at risk for maltreatment. Whether mistreatment comes at the hands of family members, caretakers, or financial predators who target those in the later stages of life, elder abuse is an issue that deserves attention and calls for creative remedies.
Perhaps the most effective way to guard against elder abuse is to ensure that the elderly have a voice. Setting up a network of communication facilitators and advocates will result in increased recognition of this problem. Unfortunately, the complaints and concerns of the elderly are often disregarded as the product of dementia or a disconnect from the modern world. This paradigm must change if we are to tackle the problem of elder mistreatment. It is essential that we take seriously the concerns of elderly patients, family members, and friends. Thus, because dementia can become a problem with age, caretakers must strive to be empathetic to the condition of their individual patients, getting to know them on a personal level and learning their patterns and sensitivities.
Ultimately, whether a patient demonstrates a history of dementia/confusion or not, all complaints and accusations of elder abuse must be taken seriously, and warrant investigation. Although this may consume time and resources, it is important that we never risk disregarding a legitimate concern. The care of the elderly is both our responsibility and privilege, and we must do all we can to ensure the safety, comfort, dignity and respect of those for whom we are caring.
Hundreds of thousands of elderly people were abused last year http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/sep/08/elderly-abuse-carer-relative