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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day: Prevention of Elder Abuse - Aging Wisely

The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) was founded in 1997 and since 2002, the United Nations International Action Plan has focused on elder abuse among the broader framework of human rights. This led to the creation of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in 2006, designated each year on June 15th. The theme is “My World…Your World… Our World – Free of Elder Abuse”. This is an important day to bring awareness to abuses against the elderly, and you can honor it by wearing purple and helping to spread the word about elder abuse and prevention.

The INPEA offers a message and some important information about elderly abuse:

• Most elder abuse is hidden.
• Ageism (age discrimination) is a major cause of elder abuse.
• Ageism and disempowerment lead to elder abuse being hidden.
• Empowering older persons is the most effective tool in the response to elder abuse.

Elder abuse comes in all forms: physical abuse, verbal abuse and coercion/harassment, neglect and isolation. Abusers can be spouses, adult children, other family members, caregivers in the home or in a care facility, professionals (attorneys, financial advisors, guardians, etc.) or strangers.

Because elder abuse is so hidden and often unreported, statistics are probably not accurate but studies suggest between 4-6% of elders have experienced abuse in the home. In a U.S. study, 36 % of nursing-home staff reported having witnessed at least one incident of physical abuse of an elderly patient in the previous year, 10% admitted having committed at least one act of physical abuse themselves, and 40% said that they had psychologically abused patients. There is also a great deal of (and often unreported) exploitation of seniors, particularly financial.

In Florida elderly exploitation cases, a son or daughter is the most likely exploiter (about 27%), followed by another relative (13%), an institution employee (10.5%), with smaller percentage of cases where a neighbor or friend or sibling did the exploiting.

A number of situations appear to put seniors at risk. In some cases, strained family relationships may worsen as a result of caregiving stress as the older person becomes more dependent. In others, a caregiver’s dependence on an older person for accommodation or financial support may be a source of conflict and may increase the chances of exploitation. Social isolation is a significant risk factor. Many elderly people become isolated because of infirmities, or through the loss of friends and family members. Cultural and socioeconomic factors can play a role also, and strong social services and healthcare systems and reducing ageism and marginalization help in prevention.

Medical and eldercare professional may spot signs of potential abuse, such as:

• delays between injuries or illness and seeking medical attention
• implausible or vague explanations for injuries, from either patient or caregiver
• differing case histories from patient and caregiver
• frequent visits to emergency departments
• functionally-impaired older patients who arrive without the main caregiver
• lab findings that are inconsistent with history provided

Other signs, especially in financial exploitation, may include:

• drastic changes to plans or the person’s financial situation
• controlling caregiver/family member and isolation of the elder

*For more information on signs of potential concerns regarding caregivers, read our Concerns About Hired Caregivers.

We will continue our posts on elder abuse and exploitation with more on prevention and common scams against the elderly, as well as how to protect loved ones who have already been victims of exploitation in the future.

If you have concerns about abuse of an elderly individual in Florida, contact 1-800-96ABUSE.

For help with Florida eldercare issues & elderly advice, contact us today.

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