It’s a sad reality that there are people within our society who prey on those who are weaker than them, and unfortunately, this makes older adults susceptible to neglect or abuse. June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which calls attention to this global crisis. Here in the United States, it’s estimated by the National Council on Aging that 1 in 10 people over the age of 60 have experienced some form of elder abuse, although studies have also shown that cases of elder abuse tend to be underreported.
Although these statistics are alarming and saddening, the first step in eradicating elder abuse is educating older adults and their family members about what constitutes abuse and how to recognize signs of elder abuse. The earlier you can intervene, the better it is for everyone involved.
Signs of Elder Abuse
If you hire a professional caregiver to care for your aging loved one, be sure to go through a reputable agency that runs background checks on their employees. Although you would probably assume that the majority of elder abuse cases involve someone outside the family, research has shown that 60 percent of the time the abuser is a family member. So keeping an eye out for the signs of elder abuse is important even when a family caregiver is involved.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day aims to help people better identify the signs of elder abuse, which can include:
Sudden and unexplainable bruises
Burns or abrasions on the skin
Emotional behavior changes, like withdrawal from social activities or sudden depression
Unexplained weight loss
Financial changes, like unpaid bills or multiple missed payments
Protecting Your Loved One From Senior Abuse
If you suspect that your loved one might be a victim of senior abuse, there are concrete steps you can take to keep them safe from harm.
The most important thing to do in these situations is to act upon your concerns. Try talking candidly to your loved one and the caregiver about your concerns and be on the lookout for more signs of senior abuse. If you are still suspicious, it is best to take advantage of available resources.
Two of the most common social services programs available to those suspicious of potential elder abuse are the Adult Protective Services (APS) and the Long-Term Care Ombudsman. While the APS investigates abuse reports of adults living in their own homes, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman investigates reports concerning residents of long-term care facilities, such as an assisted-living facility or nursing home.
You can also contact your state’s elder abuse hotlines to receive help if you suspect your parent is being abused. Remember: it is not up to you to prove that your loved one is being abused – that is entirely up to the professionals who will investigate your suspicions.
Obviously, if you believe your loved one is in immediate danger, call 911 right away.
Find Support For Your Loved One
Although being proactive about this issue is essential, it is just as important to realize that the effects of senior abuse can be felt long after the perpetrator is out of the picture. There are many programs and services available to help victims of elder abuse recover, such as counseling, social service supports, mental health services and home health services.
There is no denying that elder abuse is an unfortunate reality that affects millions of seniors across our country, but it is important to remember that we have a shared responsibility to protect our seniors.
Medical Guardian Supports Senior Safety
On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and every other day of the year, Medical Guardian is proud to support senior safety. Just like we can’t prevent falls from occurring, we, unfortunately, can’t stop seniors from being abused. We can, however, provide seniors with a direct connection to help if they are under duress.
Our medical alert devices all come equipped with 24/7 monitoring services, so if an older adult is being abused, they can press their button and talk to an emergency operator within moments. Often times, there are feelings of shame and embarrassment that come along with the abuse and it can be easier to talk to a helpful stranger than a family member (especially if the family member is carrying out the abuse!), and Medical Guardian emergency operators are trained not to pass judgement, just to assist you in finding help.