June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
Why Should I Care About Elder Abuse? Elder abuse is an under recognized problem with devastating and even life threatening consequences.
Every day, headlines throughout the U.S. paint a grim picture of seniors who have been abused, neglected, and exploited, often by people they trust the most. Abusers may be spouses, family members, personal acquaintances, or professionals in positions of trust, or opportunistic strangers who prey on the vulnerable.
How big is the problem? Research indicates that more than one in ten elders may experience some type of abuse, but only one in 23 cases are reported. This means that very few seniors who have been abused get the help they need.
One thing is for certain: elder abuse can happen to any older individual –your neighbor, your loved one – it can even happen to you.
What is Elder Abuse?
In general, elder abuse refers to intentional or neglectful acts by
a caregiver or “trusted” individual that lead to, or may lead to,
harm of a vulnerable elder. Physical abuse; neglect; emotional
or psychological abuse; verbal abuse and threats; financial
abuse and exploitation; sexual abuse; and abandonment are
considered forms of elder abuse. In many states, self-neglect is
also considered mistreatment.
TYPES OF ELDER ABUSE
- Physical abuse: Use of force to threaten or physically injure an elder
- Emotional abuse: Verbal attacks, threats, rejection, isolation, or belittling acts that cause or could cause mental anguish, pain, or distress to a senior
- Sexual abuse: Sexual contact that is forced, tricked, threatened, or otherwise coerced upon an elder, including anyone who is unable to grant consent
- Exploitation: Theft, fraud, misuse or neglect of authority, and use of undue
influence as a lever to gain control over an older person’s money or property
- Neglect: A caregiver’s failure or refusal to provide for a vulnerable elder’s safety, physical, or emotional needs
- Abandonment: Desertion of a frail or vulnerable elder by anyone with a duty of care
- Self-neglect: An inability to understand the consequences of one’s own actions or inaction, which leads to, or may lead to, harm or endangerment
Remember: You do not need to prove that
abuse is occurring; it is up to the professionals to
investigate the suspicions.
Who is at Risk?
Elder abuse can occur anywhere – in the home, in nursing homes,
or other institutions. It affects seniors across all socio-economic
groups, cultures, and races. Based on available information, women
and “older” elders are more likely to be victimized. Dementia is a
significant risk factor. Mental health and substance abuse issues
– of both abusers and victims – are risk factors. Isolation can also
contribute to risk.
•Physical Abuse: Slap marks, unexplained bruises, most pressure marks, and certain types of burns or blisters, such as cigarette burns
•Neglect: Pressure ulcers, filth, lack of medical care, malnutrition or dehydration
•Emotional Abuse: Withdrawal from normal activities, unexplained changes in alertness, or other unusual behavioral changes
•Sexual Abuse: Bruises around the breasts or genital area and unexplained sexually transmitted diseases
•Financial Abuse/Exploitation: Sudden change in finances and accounts, altered wills and trusts, unusual bank withdrawals, checks written as “loans” or
“gifts” and loss of property
What Should I Do if I Suspect Elder Abuse?
»REPORT YOUR CONCERNS
Remember: Most cases of elder abuse go undetected. Don’t assume that someone has already reported a suspicious situation. To report suspected abuse in the community, contact your local Adult Protective Services agency. For state reporting numbers, visit the NCEAwebsite at www.ncea.aoa.gov or call the Eldercare Locator at 1-8 0 0 – 67 7-1116.
»IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS IN A LIFE THREATENING SITUATION OR IMMEDIATE DANGER,contact 911or the local police or sheriff.
»TO REPORT SUSPECTED ABUSE IN A NURSING HOME OR LONG-TERM CARE FACILITY, contact your state specific agency. To find the listing, visit the Long Term Care Ombudsman website. www.ltcombudsman.org/ombudsman
For More information on Elder Abuse and Adult Protective Services in Illinois got to: http://www.illinois.gov/aging/ProtectionAdvocacy/Pages/abuse.aspx
For the Flyer from National Center on Elder Abuse “12 Things that Anyone Can Do to Prevent Elder Abuse, go to:
Together, we have the power to prevent elder abuse.