Elder abuse is a growing concern that directly impacts the financial security and dignity of older adults. On June 15, 2023 people around the globe observed World Elder Abuse Day, a powerful reminder of the importance of protecting our aging population from financial exploitation and other forms of abuse.
In this article, we'll look at the different types of elder abuse, signs to look out for, and where to find resources that offer support.
What is World Elder Abuse Day?
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) unites communities, institutions, and individuals against elder abuse. Established on June 15, 2006, through collaboration between the World Health Organization and the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, WEAAD serves as a platform for global awareness and action.
Types of Elder Abuse
Elder abuse refers to intentional acts or failures to act that place them in danger. It goes beyond inflicting physical pain or injury. Elder abuse can include a range of violations, including physical abuse, emotional or psychological manipulation, sexual misconduct, financial exploitation, confinement, neglect, and even abandonment.
Warning Signs of Elder Abuse
Data from the World Health Organization suggests that around 16% of adults aged 60 or over will experience abuse at some point in their lives. While each situation is unique, the National Institute on Aging suggests looking for these red flags:
- Noticeable signs of depression, confusion, or withdrawal.
- Social isolation, being cut off from friends and family.
- Unexplained bruises, burns, or scars.
- Signs of poor hygiene or being dirty or underfed.
- Dehydration or not receiving necessary medical care.
- Development of bedsores or other preventable conditions.
- Missing money or valuable possessions.
- Recent changes in banking or spending patterns.
While these signs alone don’t confirm elder abuse, it's crucial to proactively communicate with elderly relatives, identify warning signs, and report concerns to authorities or seek assistance from local elder abuse hotlines or organizations specializing in elder care.
How to Prevent Elder Abuse
Understanding how to prevent elder abuse is just as important as knowing the warning signs. Here are some steps to take:
- Assist overwhelmed caregivers by connecting them with help from friends, family, or local relief care groups.
- Regularly check in on older adults with limited social connections, offering companionship and support to combat isolation.
- Encourage access to adult daycare programs and counseling to promote emotional well-being.
- Understand the differences between normal aging and indicators of elder abuse.
- Contact local adult protective services, the long-term care ombudsman, or the police to report suspected abuse.
- Learn how to recognize and report signs of elder abuse.
Seniors can contribute a lot to the community and are often active in college classes and post-retirement jobs. It’s our job to protect them. By taking these simple actions, you can prevent elder abuse and create a safer environment for seniors.
What to do if You Suspect Elder Abuse
If you suspect someone you know is experiencing physical, emotional, or financial abuse, start by making a note of your concerns. Write down physical injuries, changes in behavior, and financial irregularities, including dates, times and other relevant details.
You can also talk to the person being abused if it’s safe and appropriate to do so. Listen to them and let them know you’re there to help. Then, reach out to local or national authorities, such as:
- Contact law enforcement by dialing 911
- Locate your local adult protective services agency
- Call the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD-11
- Get help from the Elder Justice Initiative
- Find local services and agencies with the Eldercare Locator
Your Part in the Fight Against Elder Abuse
Elder abuse is a deeply troubling issue that compromises the well-being and dignity of our older Americans and undermines the foundation of our communities. World Elder Abuse Day is a powerful reminder of the need for sustained action, not just on a single day but throughout the year.But seniors can’t do it alone. It is up to us to look out for our elderly friends and family and to take action if we suspect abuse or neglect. So, how will you contribute? Will you be the vigilant neighbor, the caring relative, the conscientious healthcare worker, or the alert bank teller who suspects financial fraud? Remember, every action counts, no matter how small.
Marguerita M. Cheng, CFP®, CRPC®, RICP®, Chief Executive Officer at Blue Ocean Global Wealth, is a Certified Financial Planning Expert with 18 years of experience. Prior to co-founding Blue Ocean Global Wealth, she was a Financial Advisor at Ameriprise Financial and an Analyst and Editor at Towa Securities in Tokyo, Japan. Ms. Cheng serves as a Women's Initiative (WIN) Advocate and subject matter expert for CFP Board, contributing to the development of examination questions for the CFP® Certification Examination. In 2017, she was named the #3 Most Influential Financial Advisor in the Investopedia Top 100, a Woman to Watch by InvestmentNews, and a Top 100 Minority Business Enterprise (MBE®) by the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council (CRMSDC).
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