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Together, we have the power to prevent elder abuse

Elder abuse should never be ignored – it can happen to anyone

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.

Approximately one in ten Americans aged 60 and over have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some estimates range as high as 5 million elders are abused each year. One study estimated only one in 14 cases of abuse are reported.

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse comes in many forms. Abuse includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, financial exploitation and self-neglect. Self-neglect is when a person is unable or unwilling to meet their own basic needs, which could have the potential of causing serious harm if the situation continues.

Elders who are abused are twice as likely to go to a hospital, four times as likely to go to a nursing home and three times as likely as their counterparts to die sooner.

Often times the abuser is the one closest to an elder. Fifty percent of abuse is committed by a family member, most being spouses and adult children.

Problems such as cognitive impairment, social isolation, increased medical needs, and physical decline can all lead to a person becoming vulnerable to abuse or exploitation.

Can elder abuse be prevented? Yes. Understanding the warning signs of elder abuse and learning how to protect yourself or a loved one from elder abuse can help.

Some of the signs or indicators of abuse or self-neglect are:
  • Weight loss
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities
  • Poor hygiene
  • Unusual increase in banking activity
  • Unexplained bruising or cuts
  • Lack of food in the home
  • Utility shut offs
  • Decrease in cleanliness of the home
  • Missing medications
Here are only some of the things you can do to protect yourself from elder abuse:
  • Take care of your health and see your doctor regularly.
  • Appoint someone you trust as Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy. Seek legal advice before signing legal documents.
  • Stay active in the community to avoid social isolation.
  • Don’t give personal information over the phone.
  • Go to www.ncea.acl.gov or www.nia.nih.gov for more information about prevention.
  • Contact your local elder services agency for information on services to keep you at home safely. For the agency in your area, call 1-800-AGE-INFO.
What to do if you suspect elder abuse:
  • If an older adult is in immediate, life-threatening danger, call 911.
  • To get someone involved, contact your local Elder Protective Services agency. LifePath Elder Protective Services covers all of Franklin County; the Worcester County towns of Athol, Petersham, Phillipston, Royalston; and all of Berkshire County. All reports are confidential. Reports can be made to the Elder Abuse Hotline at 800-922-2275. Once an elder abuse report is received, a trained Protective Service caseworker is assigned to investigate the allegations. If the investigation results in the confirmation of one or more types of abuse, the elder is offered an array of services to address the situation.
  • Contact the Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs if the abuse occurring in a nursing or rest home. Call LifePath at the above numbers for the Ombudsman program in our area.
  • The police can be contacted for information and assistance as well.

Elder abuse can happen to anyone, and all socioeconomic groups, classes, ethnicities and races are affected by this issue. There is no shame in suffering from abuse. Everyone has the right to live free from fear, abuse and exploitation.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

On June 15, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, to recognize the growing problem of elder abuse, please wear the color purple as a symbol to show support for the prevention of elder abuse.

Visit the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse website for more about World Elder Abuse Awareness day, and learn more about Elder Protective Services at LifePath here.