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How do I know if it is crankiness or elder abuse?

Bonnie Lynn Wright, PhD
Geriatrics Nursing

A long time ago I read somewhere that people don't get miserable when they age, they just get more of what they already were. Nice people don't magically turn into cranky old curmudgeons. If they do, chances are they always were brusque, sharp, and impatient. Now they simply do not have the emotional fortitude to cover it up as well. Hence, a curmudgeon!

When otherwise perfectly nice people do change into cranky, aggressive uncontrollable combatants, magic is not involved. It's time to look for a reason. Many exist; dementia, pharmaceutical interactions, brain tumor, etc. A thorough physical will start the investigation rolling. 

Elder abuse could account for behavior changes as well and could be gently and properly investigated at the same time. If the elder is in a home, there will be procedures in place to follow. The majority of staff members are not abusive so approach the investigation objectively. 

Getting old isn't easy.

As your mind and body wear down and you rely on others, you might get frustrated, maybe even angry.

You might even take it out on your caregiver.

Sometimes, that means you are just an ornery old cuss.

But sometimes, it means you are being abused.

Many senior citizens are ashamed to admit they are victims of elder abuse. They don't want family and friends to know what is happening. And that feeling of shame may be exacerbated by an unscrupulous caregiver, who makes the senior citizen feel worthless and incompetent, and therefore, that the senior citizen is the to blame.

This problem may increase if the abusing caregiver is a child, friend or other loved one.

The abused elder might not want to tattle.

Signs of this abuse include the senior citizen being evasive, stop taking part in his or her favorite activities. In some situations, the senior citizen might appear to be suffering from dementia by talking to themselves, constant rocking or developing a new strange tic.

Maybe it really is dementia.

Or maybe, just maybe, it is something far more sinister, like a caregiver involved in elder abuse.

Best to keep a close eye on the situation.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.