The United Nations (UN) has designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). The goal on this day is to focus global attention on the problem of physical, emotional/psychological, and financial abuse of elders. Research has shown that elder abuse, neglect, violence, and financial exploitation is one of the biggest issues facing senior citizens around the world. Approximately 1 in 10 Americans, aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some estimates range as high as 5 million elders who are abused each year. One study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities.
Abusers can be women or men and in almost 60% of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member. Two thirds are adult children or spouses. Abuse can also occur at the hands of a caregiver or a person the elder trusts. Many cases are not reported because elders are afraid, don’t want to get a loved one in trouble, or are unable to tell police, friends or family. These victims often have to decide whether to tell someone they are being hurt or continue being abused by someone they depend upon for care.
Elders throughout the United States lose an estimated $2.6 billion or more annually due to elder financial abuse and exploitation, funds that could have been used to pay for basic needs such as housing, food, and medical care. Unfortunately, no one is immune to abuse, neglect, and exploitation. It occurs in every demographic, and can happen to anyone—a family member, a neighbor, even you.
Educating seniors, professionals, caregivers, and the public on abuse is critical to prevention. The goal is to stop elder abuse before it starts. Some ways to help prevent elder abuse include;
- Listen to older adults and their caregivers to understand their challenges and provide support.
- Learn how the signs of elder abuse differ from the normal aging process.
- Check in often on older adults who may have few friends and family members.
- Where prudent and possible, involve more people other than just family, formal caregivers, and guardians in health care or financial matters.
- Report abuse or suspected abuse to Adult Protective Services.
The Massachusetts Executive Office Elder Affairs has established 22 designated Protective Services (PS) agencies throughout the Commonwealth to respond to reports of elder abuse. OCES is one of these 22 designated PS agencies and provides a safe and confidential place to call when an older adult’s health, safety, physical or emotional well-being may be at risk. The goal of protective services is to remedy or alleviate the abusive situation and to prevent the reoccurrence of abuse.
Elder abuse is a global social issue which affects the health and human rights of millions of older persons around the world, and an issue which deserves the attention of the international community.