Every year on June 15, organizations around the world – including Council on Aging – observe World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. This day is important because it raises awareness of the many forms of elder abuse, as well as its pervasiveness in society and the lack of reporting when abuse occurs.
There is no more upsetting form of abuse than that perpetrated against helpless individuals. All too often, for a variety of reasons, older adults aren’t able to help themselves. That’s why we need to be familiar with the problem in our communities and ready to take action if needed.
There are different types of abuse and the signs of each are not always obvious. The most notorious, of course, is physical abuse. Any deliberate infliction of pain or discomfort in order to control, coerce or punish an older adult qualifies as abuse, even if there are no lasting signs.
More common and not easily detected, but similarly traumatic, are emotional or verbal abuse. Using threats or intimidation, embarrassment, humiliation, as well as degrading or insulting behavior toward an older adult falls into this category.
The third form of abuse – financial exploitation – has been called the crime of the 21st century and costs its victims billions of dollars each year. That is money that victims could be using for essential services such as health care, housing and food.
Sadly, when elder abuse occurs, its often at the hands of family members or others whom older adults may rely on or trust for personal care, household tasks, financial matters, transportation and more. And though they have been betrayed themselves, older adults are often reluctant to report their abusers for fear they will lose their independence, as well as the companionship of someone they believed cared for them.
As many as one in 10 older adults are abused or neglected each year and only one in 14 cases of abuse are ever reported to authorities. We can change that. If you suspect elder abuse, call your county’s adult protective services department. A list of several agencies in the region can be found on Council on Aging’s website.
If you suspect abuse or neglect in a nursing home, notify the nursing home abuse hotline in your state. In Ohio, the number is 1-800-342-0553.
Click here for more information about World Elder Abuse Awareness Day as well as information and resources to learn about and prevent elder abuse, in all its forms.