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Abuse And Neglect

Abuse And Neglect


Abuse can take many forms. It may be physical, psychological, sexual, or financial. Neglect occurs when a caregiver fails to meet the basic needs of a child, elder, or dependent adult.


What are the causes and risks of the injury?

A combination of psychological, social, and economic troubles may contribute to abuse and neglect. Financial hardship caused by drug abuse or chronic medical conditions increases the risk for abuse and neglect. The risk is highest among families with many serious problems. Children who have been abused may grow up to abuse others.
Abuse and neglect can also take place in nursing homes or other care settings. Overworked, poorly trained staff might be more likely to abuse vulnerable residents. The long-term effects of abuse and neglect are many and varied. Emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual damage can take years to heal. In some cases, the trauma is never completely resolved. Death can even occur in extreme cases.


What can be done to prevent the injury?

Prevention begins with awareness. Campaigns and programs that broadcast the warning signs of abuse and neglect may help prevent these problems. Most states have a confidential hotline open 24 hours a day so cases of suspected abuse can be reported.
Friends, neighbors, clergy and family members can help in the following ways.
  • Ask a child or adult directly about signs of possible abuse.
  • Show concern, so that the person knows there is someone to turn to for help.
  • Talk with the person who is being abused. Getting support can make him or her feel less isolated.
  • report the abuse to the appropriate authorities, including any reliable details


How is the injury recognized?

Abuse may be suspected if signs such as those listed above, such as unexplained injuries, are noted. Neglect may be suspected if a child is often absent from school or tardy or if he or she arrives unusually early. A child might come to school inappropriately dressed for the weather. A child who is not gaining weight at an expected rate might also be a victim of neglect. Sometimes a problem can be detected just by talking to a child.
Many state laws require professionals such as teachers and healthcare professionals to report any possible cases of child abuse or neglect to a social services agency. Whether or not the law requires this, a person who has reason to suspect that a child might be the victim of neglect, physical or sexual abuse, or threatened harm, should report it.
If an adult relative, friend, or neighbor appears to be suffering from abuse or neglect, it may help to talk to the person about options or call adult protective services. Bedsores and weight loss in an elderly person may be reason to suspect neglect. Financial abuse might also be present. Child or adult protective services will check into any suspected abuse or neglect.


What are the treatments for the injury?

Treatment depends on the type of injury. The goal is to ensure the physical and emotional safety of the victim. Doctors, nurses, social workers, pastoral professionals and other professionals may be involved in helping to meet the person's needs. Hospitalization may be needed if malnutrition or other serious physical conditions are present.
Counseling services may help with emotional, psychological, or spiritual concerns or problems. If a person is in danger, he or she may be taken into protective custody. Treatment should include other family members and caregivers.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

In cases of severe abuse or neglect, the victim may need to be moved from the home or care setting. He or she may have to live with someone else, in a shelter, or in a nursing home to be safe.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the injury?

Child and adult protective services perform follow-up visits in cases of abuse or neglect. Medical follow-up care is also important. This helps to ensure a person's return to good health and is a way to check on whether caregivers are doing an adequate job.


"About Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect", [hyperLink url="" linkTitle=""][/hyperLink]

"CAN-PREVENT Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Task Force, Inc." [hyperLink url="" linkTitle=""][/hyperLink]

Sheehy, Susan, EMERGENCY NURSING: Principles and Practice: Third edition, Mosby 1995.

The Merck Manual of Medical Information: Home Edition 1997

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