In 2011, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 15th World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Each year on that day, nations of the globe officially voice their opposition to the abuse, suffering and neglect inflicted upon our elder population.
Reader Question: What is elder abuse?
Answer: The World Health Organization describes elder abuse as “a violation of human rights and a significant cause of illness, isolation and despair.” More specifically, it is the mistreatment of an older person by someone (typically) in a position of trust. This may be a partner, family member, friend or caregiver. Elder abuse can be emotional, physical, sexual, financial, or mistreatment by neglect or abandonment. Financial abuse is the most prevalent.
Financial abuse is categorized as theft, fraud, or electronic exploitation. Theft ranges from the outright stealing of money and valuables to medications and more. Fraud includes acts of dishonesty, falsification of records or forgery. And electronic exploitation may take the form of suspicious emails or calls that require the surrendering of passwords or personal information.
Both men and women, rich and poor are victims of elder abuse. Sadly, only 1 in 6 cases is ever reported.
Physical abuse leaves clues. Unexplained bruises, welts, burns or cuts, difficulty walking or sitting, bloody undergarments, emaciation, or unexplained pain should be reported. Any time you witness a life threatening situation –call 911.
Suspected elder abuse in Florida can be reported to the Abuse Hot Line at 1-800-96-ABUSE. Similar to the provisions of Florida’s “Good Samaritan law,” anyone reporting abuse in good faith is immune from civil or criminal liability. And your actions could literally save a life.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) predicts that people 65 and over will comprise nearly 17 percent of the world’s population by 2050 (1.6 billion). World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is a time to reflect on our duty to protect this vulnerable segment of our society.
Because they deserve better.
One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. To submit a question, send an email to askOSP@OneSeniorPlace.com or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging at OneSeniorPlace.com.
Lisa Conway is a Registered Nurse and Certified Care Manager and the Director for Senior Partner Care Services, Viera.