Would you know if your aging parent, spouse, grandparent was a victim of elder abuse? Maybe. Maybe not.
Elder abuse takes many forms, some more obvious than others. Physical elder abuse may cause bruises and injuries. Bedsores and poor hygiene and malnutrition are common signs of elder neglect — when a caregiver ignores a dependent elderly person’s health and personal care, safety, or emotional needs.
But other types of elderly abuse can be much more difficult to uncover. Financial elderly abuse — when a caregiver steals money, credit, and property by exploiting an elderly person’s vulnerability and dependency — can go undetected or unreported for months and years.
And there are far too many older adults trapped in a silent hell of repeated sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse. Sometimes it’s because they are isolated and unable to get help. Sometimes it’s because they suffer from dementia. An elderly victim of abuse may not even know they are being abused — or their calls for help are dismissed as paranoia, confusion, or fantasy.
Sometimes the shame or fear of pointing the finger at a family member keeps victims of elderly abuse silent. Spouses, adult children, grandchildren, and other trusted relatives are often the perpetrators in cases of elderly abuse.
But the sad truth is that most cases of elder abuse still go unreported. Which is why June has been designated “Elder Abuse Awareness Month” — and June 15th is Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Across the nation, health and human services agencies are holding seminars and events to explain what elder abuse is — and how to stop it.
But all the media attention in the world won’t keep your aging parents or loved ones safe from elder abuse… if you don’t do your part.
Here are three easy steps you can take right now to help stop elder abuse:
1. Click here for an excellent fact sheet about elder abuse from the National Center on Elder Abuse. It covers the basics: What is elder abuse? Warning signs. Who is at risk? What to do. It won’t take more than a few minutes.
2. Send this post to a couple of friends or family members.
3. Ask them to do the same.
That’s it. Told you it was easy.
But the most important thing you can do to help keep your aging parents or loved ones safe from elder abuse is to help spread the word — even if it’s just a couple people at a time.