- Written by Linda Puzan, Regional Director of the Elder Protective Service Program for Berkshire and Franklin Counties, Franklin County Home Care Corporation
- Published: 22 May 2015
Each year, June 15 is recognized as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. This day provides an opportunity to highlight the issue of elder abuse and what can be done about it. Our Elder Protective Services Program relies on reports from the members of the community to determine if elders are in need of our services. Elder abuse can happen to anyone, and all socio-economic groups, classes, ethnicities and races are affected by this issue.
What is elder abuse?
Massachusetts Law defines elder abuse as acts or omissions resulting in serious physical, sexual, or emotional injury or financial loss to an elder. Individuals who are 60-years-old or older and living in the community are protected by the law. Elder abuse includes:
- physical, sexual, and emotional abuse;
- caretaker neglect; and
- financial exploitation.
What about self-neglect?
Additionally, self-neglect is also a category that the law covers. Self-neglecting elders may be unable to access necessary services to meet health and basic essential needs or refuse to consider services that they may need to enhance their safety and wellbeing in the community.
Who are those abusing elders?
These can be family members, spouses, or personal acquaintances that the elder trusts or relies on. Examples of protective service issues can include but are not limited to the following: bedbound elders who are not moved or toileted regularly, elders who may show signs of bruising or being fearful of a particular person in their lives. In cases of financial exploitation, sudden changes in finances and accounts, unusual bank withdrawals, or a suspicious signature on an elder’s check may be warning signals of a problem. Other signs that may indicate a problem include: mail piling up, an elder withdrawing from regular activities, or changes in physical appearance.
What can be done to prevent elder abuse?
Keep in contact with elders in your life and in the community. Talk with these elders regularly to ensure their wellbeing. Regular communication helps to decrease isolation, which is a risk factor for mistreatment. Keeping in contact also gives the elder an opportunity to discuss concerns that may be bothering them. So having an open ear to signs of trouble can be the best tool in our fight against elder abuse.
The older population is growing, and risk of abuse is an increasing concern. Elder abuse should not be ignored. With the help from the community, we will have the power to intervene and assist these elders in need. When Protective Service staff does get involved, they work with elders to respect their wishes and their right to self-determination. In many cases, simple interventions can be provided and go a long way to improve the situation.
Our Elder Protective Services Program covers all of Franklin County and the Worcester County towns of Athol, Petersham, Phillipston and Royalston in the North Quabbin; we also operate Berkshire Protective Services. In Franklin County and the North Quabbin region, approximately 25 to 40 reports are received each month; statewide there are about 55 reports filed each day. Do not hesitate to call and make a report if you have a concern about an elder who may be abused or self-neglecting. All reports are confidential. Reports can be made to the Elder Abuse Hotline at 800-922-2275. If a situation is life-threatening or there is immediate danger, call 911 for police, fire, or medical emergencies.