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Together, we have the power to prevent elder abuse

WEAAD rgbKnow the signs to look for and actions you can take to make a difference

On June 15, 2018, we recognize another World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. A day officially recognized by the United Nations General Assembly on December 2011. A day to highlight the difficult issue of elder abuse.

Elder Abuse Awareness Day is recognized each June 15, and since the last Elder Abuse Awareness Day in 2017, another 5 million elders have been abused.

How many of the people who you know suffer from elder abuse? Look around your church, your senior center, the bus you ride, the diner you eat at or in your own family. Out of the ten people you see who are over 60, at least one of them has suffered or is suffering from some form of abuse, according to the National Council on Aging.

We all know the types of abuse. It involves physical, emotional, and yes, sexual abuse. It can take the form of financial exploitation or neglect. Self-neglect, which is the inability or unwillingness to care for oneself, is also of a concern.

It has been said for many years that elder abuse must be stopped and prevented, but yet it continues. Despite best efforts to intervene and educate the public, another 5 million have suffered abuse this past year. According to the National Institute of Justice:

  • another $36.5 billion has been lost due to financial exploitation
  • 130,000 elders have suffered physical abuse
  • 210,000 elders have been neglected
  • 580,000 elders have suffered emotional abuse
  • 45,000 elders have been sexually abused

Last year LifePath received 1,219 reports of abuse in Franklin and Berkshire Counties and in the North Quabbin area. Abuse or neglect was confirmed in approximately half of those reports.

Yes, it is a large number of people. It often seems as if the problem is increasing. The number of Americans ages 60 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million today to over 98 million by 2060. The problem will not end anytime soon.

However, there is good news.

The positive news is that, nationally, there has been a greater awareness and knowledge of elder abuse. People have come to recognize the signs of elder abuse and are intervening. There has been movement to strengthen elder abuse laws and to develop better tools to prevent elder abuse.

Below are just two of the many recent changes in elder abuse prevention.

  • In October 2017, the president signed the Elder Abuse Prevention Act, which helps to prevent elders becoming victims of fraud and places significant penalties on perpetrators.
  • In Massachusetts in 2017, the Executive Office of Elder Affairs under the guidance of Secretary Bonner revised the regulations governing Elder Protective Services. They have also started several new training programs to give the protective services workers greater flexibility and skills in investigating and intervening in elder abuse.

What can you do help prevent elder abuse?

Educate yourself about elder abuse and learn the signs of elder abuse.

Below are just some of the signs:

  • Physical abuse or mistreatment: Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, burns
  • Emotional abuse: Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, or unusual depression; strained or tense relationships; frequent arguments between the caregiver and older adult; belittling, threats, or other uses of power and control by individuals
  • Financial abuse: Sudden changes in financial situations
  • Neglect: Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, unusual weight loss
Check out the following three websites to learn more about the types, prevention, causes, and signs of elder abuse.
Advocate for policy and continued funding

I ask that all of you on June 15, 2018, do your part to prevent elder abuse. Call, write or email your state and federal legislators and Governor Baker. Tell them that elder abuse prevention is important to you. Ask that that they continue to provide financial resources to support programs such as home-delivered meals, Elder Protective Services, transportation programs, housing programs and councils on aging to name just a few. Below are the links to find your local legislator, Governor Baker and federal congressman.

If you suspect abuse of someone over 60 and in Massachusetts, call the Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-922-2275 or file online.

The hotline is open 24/7, your name is confidential, and an elder’s rights are respected.

The police can be contacted for information and assistance as well. If an older adult is in immediate, life-threatening danger, call 911.

If the abuse occurring in a nursing or rest home, contact the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program. Call LifePath at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259 for the Ombudsman program in our area.

Wear purple

Purple is the color that represents World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. On June 15, 2018, please wear something purple to show your support for the prevention of elder abuse.

Elder abuse is a daily concern. It affects us all, but you are the solution. You can make a difference. Do something and help someone you know or love.

Learn more about Elder Protective Services at LifePath.