This Wednesday, June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The purpose of WEAAD is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to raise awareness about abuse and neglect of older persons. Elder abuse can occur anywhere – in the home, in nursing homes, or other institutions. It affects seniors across all socio‐economic groups, cultures and races.
There are nearly 6 million cases of elder abuse every year in the United States and many go unreported. The majority of these crimes are committed by family members, friends and trusted caregivers. Financial abuse is also committed by friends, family and total strangers preying on the vulnerable through internet scams, lottery and sweepstake offers, home improvement companies, identity theft, predatory lending and living trust mills.
The different types of elder abuse and their warning signs are:
Physical abuse ‐ Use of force to threaten or physically injure. Signs: slap marks, unexplained bruises and pressure marks.
Emotional abuse ‐ Verbal attacks, threats, rejection, isolation, or belittling acts that cause or could cause mental anguish, pain, or distress. Signs: Withdrawal from normal activities, unexplained changes in alertness, or other unusual behavioral changes
Sexual abuse ‐ Sexual contact that is forced, tricked, threatened, or otherwise coerced upon Signs: bruises around the breasts or genital area and unexplained STDs.
Financial Abuse/Exploitation ‐ Theft, fraud, misuse or neglect of authority and use of undue influence as a lever to gain control over an older person’s money or property. Signs: Irregular patterns of spending, altered wills and trusts, unusual bank withdrawals, unpaid bills
Neglect ‐ A caregiver’s failure or refusal to provide for a vulnerable elder’s safety, physical, or emotional needs. Signs: pressure ulcers, filth, lack of medical care, malnutrition or dehydration
Abandonment ‐ Desertion of a frail or vulnerable senior by anyone with a duty of care.
To prevent elder abuse, keep in close contact with your elderly parent or loved one. Maintaining communication helps decrease isolation, a major risk factor for mistreatment, and gives them a chance to talk with you about any problems they may be experiencing. Also, take note of any behavioral changes your loved one may exhibit, especially around those caring for them.
If you suspect elder abuse in any way, contact your local law enforcement or Area Agency on Aging. Reporting such abuse is pertinent to the protection of all older adults.