Using Digital Technology To Stop Elder Abuse

Posted: Mar 28 2016, 2:13pm CDT | by , Updated: Mar 28 2016, 7:54pm CDT, in News | Technology News

Using Digital Technology to Stop Elder Abuse
photo: psychology today

Elder abuse is a common problem that often goes unnoticed. How can we use digital tech to stop it?

Let’s just get this out of the way right up front: Elder abuse happens more frequently than many of us would like to admit. Worse yet, it can come from pretty much anyone watching over an elderly individual. It can happen in assisted living facilities carried out by nurses, or it can happen in your own home carried out by a third-party, family member or a hired caregiver.

About 1 in 10 senior Americans over the age of 60 have experienced some type of elder abuse. That number is staggering, and just goes to show how rampant the issue is.

Sadly, this is because a lot of elderly citizens that are being cared for are extremely vulnerable, especially if they suffer from a mental or personality disorder.

What Is Elder Abuse Exactly?

Elder abuse can be defined as the mistreatment of senior citizens through physical, emotional or sexual harm. Often, the abuse is carried out as a means to exploit, neglect, harm, or abandon them.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect is the waterfall of potential perpetrators. Elder abuse can come from spouses, family members, caretakers, children, staff members at a nursing home, or even visitors at the place where they are staying.

There are seven different types of elder abuse most often reported to authorities:

  1. It is considered physical abuse when the elderly individual involved experiences pain or any level of injury — minor to severe — from actions such as being hit, bruised or restrained by chemicals. Furthermore, restraint that causes physical harm can come from medication, drugs, or physical force.
  2. It is considered emotional abuse when the elderly individual involved suffers mental distress or pain from verbal or nonverbal acts at the hands of someone else. Emotional abuse is often used to intimidate, threaten, or humiliate.
  3. It is considered sexual abuse when the elderly individual involved is fondled, touched, or forced into intercourse. Any type of non-consensual sexual contact is considered abuse.
  4. It is considered neglect when the elderly individual is willfully deprived. It means anyone responsible for the elder’s safety has failed to provide protection, care, shelter, healthcare or food. It is also neglect if the caregiver willingly exposes them to emotional, mental or physical harm, even if it comes from another party.
  5. It is considered abandonment when the elderly individual is deserted completely by their caregiver.
  6. It is considered confinement when the elderly individual is isolated or restrained for any reason other than a serious medical purpose.
  7. It is considered financial exploitation when a caregiver withholds or illegally uses an elderly adult’s property, funds or assets for their own gain, or another person’s. This happens to be the most common type of elderly abuse reported.

There’s no reason to explain why any of these types of abuse are dastardly. However, it is a good idea to discuss some ways in which you can prevent this happening to a loved one. Believe it or not, the use modern technology is a great way to do this.

Using Digital Technology to Help Stop Elder Abuse

The MetLife Mature Market Institute estimates that older adults lost a combined total of $2.9 billion to financial abuse back in 2011, which is a 12 percent increase in the same statistic from 2008. Naturally, it’s getting worse as time goes on.

The Commonwealth Blog, citing the Pew Research Center, has claimed the increase in abuse correlates with an increase in the number of elderly computer and smartphone users. This is because — as many of us are well aware —the Internet is ripe with shady dealers, spammers, hackers and other unscrupulous individuals. In fact, the Commonwealth Blog goes so far as to claim that almost half (45 percent) of that financial abuse starts on the Internet. This isn’t hard to believe, considering even the most tech-savvy sometimes fall prey to these attacks.

These warnings don’t mean that all technology is bad, nor do they mean we should keep the elderly off the Internet as much as possible. It just means that we have a duty to ensure they are well-informed about these problems and know how to spot and avoid them. If the latter is not possible, then someone needs to be there to supervise their activity to ensure they are safe, which is where our first piece of tech comes in handy.

IMSHealth’s AppScript

AppScript is a unique service which evaluates and classifies healthcare apps to ensure they are appropriate for patients. What does this mean for the elderly? Essentially, they rank apps based on their safety, reliability, and trustworthiness. So you can find out if an app is safe to install on Grandma’s phone.

According to the company, they’ve already screened well over 40,000 applications. They also allow you to track what apps are being used by patients, so you can see if your loved one installs something they shouldn’t have.

Elder Abuse Guide for First Responders and Law Enforcement

Criminal investigators and first responders who are called to check up on the elderly, don’t always know how to handle the situation, particularly when it comes to elder abuse. They may not know what kind of signs to look for or how to handle a situation that’s been properly identified.

That’s why the Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse & Neglect at UCI recently launched a mobile app designed specifically for this purpose.

The app is called “368+Elder & Dependent Adult Abuse Guide for CA Law Enforcement,” and it’s available for both iOS and Android devices. The content can also be viewed in a mobile browser on devices that aren’t natively supported.

BeClose Senior Safety System

The BeClose system has two parts. One is a wearable alert button equipped with sensors that your elderly loved one must wear. The other part is a web application that allows you to monitor their whereabouts and activities.

You can see information about their sleeping habits, medication schedule (and if they’re sticking to it), personal safety, and much more.

The system transmits information through a base station, which does not require broadband internet access or a second phone line. Even better, you can check up on your loved one remotely, which is great if you live a large distance away.

Prime Caregiver Aid

Prime is designed with caregivers in mind — but more specifically, a family-oriented caregiver. What makes it special is that it turns senior care into a collaborative effort between multiple family members.

Through the app, users can sync health records and doctor’s appointments so that everyone can help take care of the loved one if need be. It also boasts a concierge service that will help you deal with medical professionals if necessary.

Prime is available as a native app on iOS, or as a web application for other devices.

This story may contain affiliate links.


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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/56" rel="author">Scott Huntington</a>
Scott Huntington is a writer and journalist from Harrisburg PA who covered movies, tech, cars, and more. Check out his blog Off The Throttle or follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington.




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