Did you know, according to AARP estimates, as many as 1 in 10 adults age 60 or over may be victims of elder abuse? It’s one of the leading issues facing older Americans today and is all too often suffered in silence. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15) was designated by the United Nations to provide us an opportunity to exchange ideas, discuss solutions, and shine the light on this growing problem.
What Is Elder Abuse?
In addition to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, mistreatment can include neglect, exploitation, and abandonment. While the obvious warning signs are bruises, burns, and fractures, there are other red flags including:
- Sudden or unexplained withdrawal from typical activities
- Poor hygiene, bedsores, unattended medical needs, frequently recurring UTIs
- Unexpected changes in financial situation
- Unusual depression or changes in behavior or personality
- Weight loss
- Strained or tense relationships between caregiver and elder
- Verbal threats, demeaning comments, or obvious abuse of power and control
Because elder abuse takes on many forms and often goes unreported, it’s important to be attentive to changes like those mentioned above. If you suspect an issue, a good place to start is with your state’s Adult Protective Services agency, which can be located via the National Center on Elder Abuse website.
For suspected cases of abuse in nursing homes and care facilities, your long-term ombudsman can be an extremely helpful resource. The federal Older Americans Act requires all states to have an ombudsman program where you’ll find advocates trained to assist with complaints and problem resolution.
What Can You Do?
For those wanting to get more involved, here are a few ways to do so.
- Help the seniors in your life be savvy with their finances. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has partnered with the FDIC to offer “Money Smart for Older Adults”, free downloadable educational materials created with seniors in mind.
- Check out the National Association of Triads, and start a grassroots organization aimed at keeping seniors safe. Law enforcement officials, elders, and community groups partner to form a Triad, offering education and support at a local level.
- Look into becoming a volunteer ombudsman.
- Visit AARP’s Create the Good website to find volunteer opportunities in your area.
- Voice your concerns to elected officials and ask for their support.
- Reach out to an elderly neighbor and offer companionship or volunteer as a “buddy” at a nearby nursing home.
- Do you know a family caring for a loved one at home? Are you able to offer respite care to give the primary caregiver a break? Just a few hours each week can do wonders for reducing stress. If that won’t work, how about offering to take care of yard work or grocery shopping to help ease their load?
According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 9 of the world’s inhabitants today are age 60 or over, and the projection for 2050 jumps to 1 in 5. With numbers like that, we can all agree that elder abuse is a problem that simply cannot be ignored. The first step is acknowledging and talking about it.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so please leave a comment to share your opinions and ideas.