June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Who would have thought that there would be a World Elder Abuse Awareness Day?
Every year about 10,000 people turn 65 in the U.S. alone. This trend is supposed to continue for about 20 years. Soon we will have more elderly in the U.S. than ever before. With this, a startling number of elders exist in abusive conditions. As people become older and physically frail, they may become less able to fight back against unscrupulous people that may be taking advantage of them. Every year, an estimated 5 million seniors are victims of abuse, neglect, or are being exploited. It is believed that for every report of elder abuse or neglect, 23 may go unreported.
Elder abuse generally refers to an intentional or negligent act upon vulnerable elder adult by someone who is caring for them. There are several ways that someone could be abused such as physical, sexual, emotional, financial, and neglect. Physical abuse occurs when there is infliction of pain or injury. Physical signs to look for may be bruising, breaks, or burns. Sexual abuse occurs when there is any non-consensual sexual contact. Someone could abuse another emotionally by verbally humiliating, intimidating, or threatening them. The emotionally abused may become withdrawn or unusually depressed. An elder could also be abused financially. Failing to provide shelter, protection, or healthcare comes under neglect. Signs of neglect could be bedsores, unusual weight loss, or poor hygiene. We need to be aware because seniors have been known to suffer in silence.
If you are an elder, you need to protect yourself. Make sure your financial affairs are in order. Be sure to keep in touch with your friends and family. If you are unhappy with your care, tell someone you trust or contact the elder abuse hotline or an ombudsman. If you suspect someone is being abused, don’t assume that someone else will take care of it. Don’t hesitate to report it. If it is a life threatening situation, call 9-1-1 or your local police. In other situations where you might suspect abuse, you can contact the Elder Abuse Hotline, the National Center on Elder Abuse, or Adult Protective Services. Let the professionals look into it.