How to protect the elderly from abuse: World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

We are taught when we are young that the elderly are fragile and that they deserve to be respected and loved. And yet, there is an expanding epidemic of elder abuse worldwide, with many nations experiencing rapidly aging populations. That is why World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was launched by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization to bring awareness of the cultural, social, and economic factors contributing to the mistreatment of elderly people.  The theme of this year’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is “Building Strong Support for Elders.” World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is observed annually on June 15th.

“Raising awareness is only the start. We need to ensure the safety of the elderly.  We should all take a stand for compassion and nurture the senior citizens in our lives.” stated Pride PHC Vice President, Andy Cruz.

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse refers to any intentional negligent act or an awareness of abusive behaviors by a caregiver, family member, or any other person who imposes harm on any adult over the age of 60. Worldwide, one out of every six people over the age of 60, has fallen victim to elder abuse. Victims tend to be frail and vulnerable with the inability to take care of themselves, therefore they are more dependent on the support of others. Here are the most frequent types of elder abuse:

  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Neglect
  • Manipulation
  • Emotional Abuse
  • Abandonment

Warning Signs

If you notice any of these signs of potential abuse, we urge you to consider reaching out to law enforcement:

  • Scratches/cuts, bruises, broken bones, and burn marks may be a red flag of physical abuse, neglect, or intentional harm.
  • Unusual self-removal from day-to-day activities, becoming more alert, and abnormal depression could suggest emotional abuse.
  • Sexual abuse may be noticeable through the bruising of the genitals.
  • Changes in finance may stem from manipulation and financial exploitation.
  • Bedsores, lack of good hygiene, and abnormal weight loss indicate the possibility of negligence.
  • Recurring arguments and deteriorating relationships between the caregiver and an older adult may also be indicative of abuse.

How You Can Help

If you suspect an older adult is in danger, please visit How Can I Report Abuse, Neglect or Exploitation? | Texas Health and Human Services to learn when and how to report the abuse. It is not your responsibility to confirm abuse is occurring, you only need to alert others of your suspicions.

Many factors need to be taken into consideration when considering when the senior citizen may experience an increased or decreased probability of mistreatment. “As a community we must build awareness to recognize and address where a person may be put at risk and how to protect them,” said Cruz.

Older adults and their caregivers must have their voices heard to understand the challenges that they face and be offered continual support. If abuse is suspected, it needs to be reported to law enforcement. Additionally, it is important to know the signs of elder abuse and how they differ from the normal aging process.

By continuously checking-in on older adults who may have few friends and family members, we can reduce incidents of elder abuse. “Utilizing support systems such as adult daycares, senior centers, and the help of family and friends, may minimize the risks for an older adult, because it will place them in a stronger support system,” Cruz states.

The older adult population is growing at a faster rate in the U.S. than any other demographic. By nature, older adults require additional care, which makes them vulnerable to abuse. Your voice could very well make the difference for someone who has been silenced by elder abuse.

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