June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Sadly, elder abuse, or older adults who experience abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation, is far too common. Perpetrators of elder abuse are often those closest to the individual, as studies from Adult Protective Services report that 90 percent of perpetrators of elder abuse are family members. Individuals with dementia are the majority of those abused, as one study reported that 47 percent of people with dementia suffer from some kind of abuse.
Despite these high rates of abuse, only 1 in 14 cases are reported to authorities. Therefore, the best way to combat elder abuse is to know the types of abuse and what to do if you suspect it.
Types of Elder Abuse
- Physical Abuse: using physical force on an elderly person that can be expected to cause bodily harm, ongoing impairment, or physical pain. Some symptoms and signs: Broken bones and fractures, bruising, welts, open wounds, unexplained injuries and wounds, internal bleeding, sudden change in the elderly person’s personality and behavior.
- Sexual Abuse: Any type of sexual contact with someone who is unable to provide consent.
- Emotional or Psychological Abuse: Inflicting pain, anguish, or distress by verbal or nonverbal means. Signs and symptoms: Decrease in communication, unresponsive, withdrawn, agitated, emotionally upset, and otherwise unusual behavior.
- Neglect of the Elderly: Refusing or failing to provide the elderly with the care they need to live the most comfortable and healthy life. This can include: failing to provide care, withholding water, food, secure shelter, clean and appropriate clothing, medicine, hygiene, personal safety, and comfort. Signs and symptoms: Living in unsanitary conditions, lack of heat or water, malnutrition, dehydration, and untreated bedsores or other health problems.
- Abandonment of the Elder: Deserting an elder for whom you have responsibilities and custody.
- Financial Abuse: Illegally or improperly using the elderly person’s assets. This may include: forging signatures, taking cash, signing checks, forcing the elderly person to sign a document they do not understand, stealing their possessions and money, and improperly using the benefits of being their power of attorney. Signs and symptoms: Changes in bank account, large amounts of money withdrawn or missing, changes to legal documents, forged signatures, transferring assets for unexplained reasons, and refusing or withholding their money from the elderly.
If you ever suspect any type elder abuse, it’s imperative to report it as soon as possible. To report suspected abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation please call the 24-hour Adult Protective Services Hotline: (866) 800-1409, (888) 206-1327.