World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is June 15th. Did you know that elder abuse is considered a “silent problem”? Nationally, five million older adults are abused every year, and at least $36.5 billion is lost annually by victims of financial abuse according to the National Council on Aging. In Massachusetts, there were 35,202 elder abuse reports made in 2021.
Who is at risk?
There are several key risk factors for elder abuse including social isolation, poor physical health and dementia. Although it may not be possible for older adults to control or change their physical health, they should maintain their connections with family and friends. Staying active in the community is another way to ward off social isolation and reduce risk.
How do you recognize elder abuse?
Recognizing elder abuse is not always easy because they may not be physically obvious. Some signs could be sudden changes to a will; unpaid bills; appearing fearful; or withdrawing socially.
“Red Flags of Elder Abuse” can be found on the National Center on Elder Abuse’s website, https://ncea.acl.gov/NCEA/media/docs/Red-Flags-of-Elder-Abuse-English.pdf
Elder abuse includes financial exploitation, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, neglect or self-neglect. Unfortunately, people who are known and trusted, such as family members, friends and service providers, are the perpetrators of most elder abuse cases.
How can OCES help?
Old Colony Elder Services (OCES), a non-profit agency designated as one of 25 Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs) in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, has a Protective Services Team that works with older adults or their designees to prevent, eliminate or remedy situations involving elder abuse. This may include situations where the perpetrator is a current or former intimate partner, in which case domestic violence and elder abuse are involved.
When a report is made to the Elder Abuse Hotline (1-800-922-2275), and the elder resides in OCES’ service area, OCES will receive the report and determine if further investigation is necessary by a Protective Services Worker.
Working together to end elder abuse
In recognition of WEAAD, to raise awareness and help stop elder abuse, OCES has partnered with Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz, Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department, the Brockton Council on Aging and Plymouth Center for Active Living to hold “March Against Elder Abuse”, community marches in Brockton on June 15, and Plymouth on June 16, 2022. The public, civic leaders, health workers and community supporters are invited to participate. Registration is required and you can register on OCES’ website, www.ocesma.org.
What are other ways to raise awareness to stop elder abuse? In addition to supporting and participating in local events such as the March Against Elder Abuse, community groups and organizations are encouraged to consider holding workshops for healthcare, EMTs, and non-family member caregivers to help them identify potential signs of abuse. Check on older family members and neighbors, know the signs of abuse, consult with OCES’ Protective Services Team, or file an elder abuse report if you have concerns.
Be proactive and be a part of the solution to help end elder abuse. Anyone witnessing elder abuse is urged to report it – See Something, Say Something!
If you have concerns, contact your local Protective Services Agency. To file a report on elder abuse, contact the Centralized Intake Unit (Elder Abuse Hotline) at 1-800-922-2275.
For more information about “March Against Elder Abuse” events, visit www.ocesma.org.
WEAAD was launched in 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. To learn more about WEAAD, visit https://eldermistreatment.usc.edu/weaad-home/