June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and allows us the opportunity to honor our seniors by raising awareness of elder abuse in our local community. People over 85 are the fastest growing segment of the population in the United States; this is also the segment most vulnerable to abuse and neglect. Relatively few cases are identified, as elders are often reluctant, fearful or unable to report mistreatment, which means that very few seniors who are being abused get the help they need.
The abuse can be physical, sexual and emotional, financial exploitation, neglect, self-neglect or abandonment. The neglect may be accomplished through physical violence, isolation, or the theft or embezzlement of a senior’s property. The perpetrator’s actions can often be very subtle.
Some warning signs to look for include unexplained bruises, slap or pressure marks, lack of medical care, malnutrition or dehydration, withdrawal from normal activities, changes in alertness, unusual behavioral changes, unusual bank withdrawals, checks written as “loans” or “gifts,” and loss of property.
Older people can reduce the risk of elder abuse by maintaining normal schedules for doctor and dental visits, investigate daily money management programs for assistance in budgeting, banking and bill paying. Talk about your needs with a trusted friend, neighbor, or loved one, and ask for help.
We can all help to prevent elder abuse by just being aware of the possibility of abuse, report suspected mistreatment, commit to visiting our older friends, neighbors and relatives, volunteer with local area agencies such as Meals on Wheels (which can be helpful in preventing self-neglect or observing whether he/she might need other assistance).
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse and you need support, contact our local Family Support Center at their confidential hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at: 684-6139.