How To Identify And Report Elder Abuse?
Things everyone should know to help people spot and report Elder Abuse.
It’s not something we like to think about—but elder abuse has been called an epidemic in the United States and worldwide, and the incidence of this crime is likely to rise as our global population ages.
Once a year, on June 15, cities and communities from around the world plan activities and programs to recognize World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. This is an opportunity to share information and raise the consciousness of all citizens about abuse, neglect and exploitation in later life. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) theme for 2014:
One Person, One Action, One Nation United Against Elder Abuse
To raise awareness of elder abuse, here are some questions that seniors, families and everyone in the community should be able to answer:
Q: What is elder abuse?
A: According to the NCEA, elder abuse refers to intentional or negligent acts by a caregiver or trusted individual that cause harm to a vulnerable elder. Elder abuse includes neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse and exploitation, emotional abuse and abandonment.
Q: Who is at risk for abuse, neglect and exploitation?
A: Elder abuse can happen to any senior—a loved one, a neighbor, and when we are old enough, it can happen to us. Risk factors include dementia, mental health or substance abuse issues, social isolation and poor physical health.
Q: Why are elders often reluctant to report abuse?
A: Sometimes seniors don’t realize that what’s happening to them is abuse or neglect. And many times they are ashamed to report abuse, especially if the abuser is a family member. They are afraid the person will “get in trouble,” or that they might have to move to a nursing home.
Q: Why should I care about elder abuse?
A: By the year 2020, 20 percent of our population will be older than 65. These seniors are living longer, but cognitive impairment and physical disability will make them more vulnerable to victimization. Elders throughout the U.S. lose a minimum of $2.9 billion annually due to financial abuse. This crime affects everyone!
Q: What should I do if I suspect an older adult is being victimized?
A: Report suspected mistreatment to your local adult protective services agency or law enforcement. You can find contact information on the NCEA website or through the Eldercare Locator. If you believe that an elder is in a life-threatening situation, contact 911 or the local police or sheriff’s department.
Q: How can I help fight elder abuse?
A: Learn more about the issue. Raise awareness by talking about the problem, writing letters to the editor, etc. Keep your eyes open when you are talking to older friends, neighbors and relatives. Ask questions and listen. Don’t be afraid to get involved! This is not just a “family matter”—it is a concern for everyone.
For more detailed information, read “How to Answer Those Tough Questions About Elder Abuse and visit the websites of the National Center on Elder Abuse and the U.S. Administration for Community Living.
Source: AgeWise reporting on materials from the National Center on Elder Abuse (www.ncea.aoa.gov) and the U.S. Administration for Community Living (www.aoa.gov).