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Saving Senior Lives: How to Prevent Elder Abuse

Senior woman in a yellow sweater seated with her hands claspedBy: Camila Cal, SeniorLivingGuide.com

It is more than likely that we’ve all heard the phrase “respect your elders” and most of us take it to heart, giving the seniors around us the kind, loving treatment that they deserve. Although we may assume that everyone else thinks the same way when it comes to respect for elders, that is not the case.

According to research from the National Center for Elderly Abuse, approximately one in ten Americans over 60 years old have experienced some form of elder abuse. These statistics are measured by reported cases, and the sad truth is, most cases of elder abuse go unreported. Often, (about 60% of the time) the abusers are family members.

Seniors may be in vulnerable mental and physical positions due to potential disabilities or mental impairments. Because it is easy to isolate a disabled senior and they may not have the ability to fight back physically or emotionally, seniors become an easy target for abusers.

Before diving into the signs of an elder that is being abused, we must first be conscious of some types of abuse that exist in order to be fully informed and prepared to help:

  • Physical abuse: Injuries or pain inflicted on the senior.
  • Sexual abuse: Any sexual activity involved with an older adult that is not able to understand or consent.
  • Emotional abuse: Harassment, threats, humiliation, and instilling fear in the senior.
  • Financial abuse: Improper use of a senior’s money or resources (may include theft, fraud, misuse of assets, etc.).

Look at the seniors in your life and watch out for the warning signs of elder abuse:

  1. Physical changes such as unexplained injuries, dramatic weight loss, or poor hygiene.
  2. Emotional changes such as an increase in anxiety, tendencies to isolate from loved ones, or atypical behavior and sleep changes.
  3. Financial concerns like unpaid bills, sudden increases in spending, changes in financial documents, and fraudulent signatures.

Call 911 if you notice any of these signs and believe the senior is in immediate danger. If you believe that a senior is being abused/mistreated but the situation is not immediately life-threatening, get in contact with a local adult protective services office, long-term care ombudsman, or the police.

If you believe you are the victim of elder abuse, there are resources and people available to help and care for you. You are not alone. Tell a doctor, a friend, or family member that you trust or get in contact with the same resources above.

By spreading the facts, checking up on the elders around you, and educating others on the prevalence of elder abuse, you could prevent others from experiencing elder abuse, and potentially save senior lives.

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