Financial, physical and emotional abuse is on the rise. Research indicates that 1 in 10 Americans age 60 and over have experienced some form of elder abuse. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, for every one case of reported elder abuse, about five more incidents go unreported.
The purpose of World Elder Abuse Awareness Month is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to gain a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older adults by raising awareness of what it is and its prevalence.
Many cases go unreported as some older adults fear if they complain, there will be repercussions. Individuals with dementia are especially vulnerable because they may not remember that they have been abused. Studies show that more than a third of people with dementia suffer psychological, physical or financial abuse at the hands of their caregivers or family members.
Elder abuse includes self-neglect as well as physical, emotional, or sexual harm, neglect or financial exploitation by people who are directly responsible for the elder’s care. As older adults become more physically frail, they may be less able to take care of themselves, stand up to bullying, or fight back if attacked. Mental or physical ailments can make them more demanding companions for those who live with them. And they may not see or hear as well or think as clearly as they used to, leaving openings for unscrupulous people to take advantage of them.
The number of older adults is growing and the amount of elder abuse is expected to grow with it. While the topic of elder abuse has started to gain visibility across the world, it remains one of the least investigated types of violence and one of the least addressed in national action plans. Elder abuse is a global social issue which affects the health and human rights of millions of older adults around the world; this is an issue which deserves the attention of the international community. Click here for a Protective Services Program Fact Sheet from the Executive Office of Elder Affairs.
It is crucial for all of us to be on the lookout for signs of elder abuse, and to speak up if something seems wrong. Anyone can report elder abuse. If you are concerned about an adult age 60 or older, living in the community, and have reason to believe he/she is a victim of elder abuse, neglect, self-neglect or financial exploitation call the Massachusetts-based Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-922-2275. You can also consult with your local Protective Services agency, such as OCES by calling 508-584-1561. All calls and reports are confidential.
To report abuse of a person with a disability under the age of 60, call the Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC) at 1-800-426-9009. To report abuse of a person in a nursing facility or hospital, call the Department of Public Health (DPH) at 1-800-462-5540. For any age or setting, call 911 or local police if you have an emergency or life-threatening situation.
Older adults have the right to a life of dignity, free of all forms of abuse, including financial and material exploitation, which could lead to poverty, hunger, homelessness, compromised health and well-being, and even premature mortality. Below are links to additional information.