Here in the Northern Hemisphere, June marks the start of the summer season and contains the one day of the whole year that has the most amount of daylight hours. It is also the month that shines a light on the suffering of older people. First observed in 2006, the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations have designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). This day is intended to raise awareness about elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation as well as to promote the resources that are out there for those who have been victimized.
No demographic is immune to this social problem, which encompasses intentional or neglectful acts by a caregiver or “trusted” individual that lead to, or may lead to, harm of a vulnerable elder. It can happen to anyone, anywhere. Your elderly neighbor may be being sexually assaulted in her assisted living facility. Your grandfather may be being financially exploited by the at-home nurse who visits twice a week. Your former teacher may be being physically abused at her nursing home.
Mistreatment comes in many forms:
It is vital that you talk with your older friends, neighbors, and relatives. Maintaining communication helps to decrease isolation, which is a major risk factor for mistreatment. Reflect on them now. Have you noticed any of the following?
- Unexplained bruises or broken bones
- Slap marks
- Burns or blisters
- Symptoms of being over-medicated
- Sudden personality changes
- Hesitation to answer questions
- Antisocial behavior
- Acting fearful
- Frequently gives money, checks, or gifts to their caregiver
- Missing personal belongings
- Malnourishment or dehydration
- Bedsores or pressure ulcers
- Filthy surroundings or hygiene
- Missing glasses, hearing aids, false teeth, etc?
Of course, some of these conditions are not necessarily signs of abuse or neglect, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. It has been estimated that for every case of elder abuse or neglect reported, as many as 23 cases go unreported. It is not up to you to prove that mistreatment is occurring. Reporting your suspicions will allow professionals to intervene and evaluate. Far too many cases of elder abuse go undetected because people don’t want to get involved. It can be very difficult for the victims to report the abuse because they may feel ashamed, may feel guilty, may be in denial, may be unaware, may be unable to speak, or may be afraid that they will not be believed.
To report suspected abuse, contact your local Adult Protective Services agency. For state reporting numbers, visit the National Center on Elder Abuse or call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116. To report suspected abuse in a nursing home or long-term care facility, contact your state specific agency through the Long Term Care Ombudsman.
Take a moment to educate yourself about elder abuse and do what you can to safeguard the rights, dignity, and independence of older people. If you suspect that a senior’s injury is the result of abuse or neglect, or if you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with one of the Georgia elder abuse attorneys at The Mann Law Firm. We have over 50 years of experience helping people, and we can help you. Based in Macon, we believe that all patients deserve a safe place to live and the right to be free from abuse. Contact us to discuss your unique situation by calling (478) 742-3381 or by filling out our online form.