Being neglected, exploited or abused is unfortunately a reality for one in 10 older adults. For every case reported, 23 are not. Many of our most vulnerable older adults do not get the help they need to recover from the harm done or to get the abuse or exploitation to stop.
What is elder abuse? It can take many forms, including:
- Physical abuse - slapping, punching, kicking
- Exploitation - taking money or property, misusing funds or inappropriately controlling assets
- Emotional abuse - yelling, rejecting, isolating, threatening
- Sexual abuse - unwanted, forced or nonconsensual sexual contact
- Abandonment - deserting an older adult for whom one has the duty of care
- Neglect - failing to meet needs of a vulnerable older adult by withholding or refusing care
- Self-neglect - failing to understand or meet one's own needs and being harmed as a result
Anyone can be the victim or the perpetrator. Abusers may include close family members, friends, professionals and strangers. Studies show that older women, individuals who have dementia or memory diseases, people who live alone and are isolated, as well as those who have physical limitations, are more likely to be victims. Abuse does not discriminate across income, race or cultural lines. People who are substance abusers or have mental health issues are at higher risk of being both abusers and the abused.
If you suspect elder abuse, take action:
- Make a report to your local Adult Protective Services agency - you do not have to prove abuse is occurring and do not assume that someone else will make a report. Call toll-free 1-888-277-8366 or report suspected abuse at reportadultabuse.dhs.tn.gov.
- Call 911 if you or someone you know is in a life-threatening situation.
June 15, 2016 is recognized as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. It is a great time to learn more and to do more to address this issue. Your actions can be simple but life-changing. Visit an older adult friend or neighbor. Volunteer to assist an older adult. Talk about the issue with others. Older adults deserve advocates, resources, respect and care. If you suspect abuse, report it.
For more information, visit www.ncea.aoa.gov (the National Center on Elder Abuse) or www.napsa-now.org/resource-center/main/ (the National Adult Protective Services Resource Center). FiftyForward Victory Over Crime assists older adults to recover, move forward and avoid future victimization. For 60 years, FiftyForward has been the leading resource and advocate in Middle Tennessee for older adults offering care assessment, centers, programs and services. Reach the FiftyForward Victory Over Crime advocates at 615-743-3417.
Lauren Angulo is the director of the FiftyForward Victory Over Crime program and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.