There is a growing epidemic across our nation, and worldwide, of elder abuse.
Research tell us that one in ten seniors over the age of sixty has experienced some form of elder abuse. You may be asking, however, just what is elder abuse?
According to the National Council on Aging “elder abuse includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, neglect, and abandonment. Perpetrators include children, other family members, and spouses—as well as staff at nursing homes, assisted living, and other facilities.” Unfortunately, this same research shares with us that in over sixty percent of the reported cases the abuser is known to the victim.
What can we do to keep ourselves and those we love stay safe? The first step is education. It is important for you and your loved ones to know how to recognize abuse and report it when you suspect it. This June we want to focus on ideas and potential solutions to prevent abuse from occurring as we celebrate World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15th. This is a special time when we can work together to share a message of prevention and understanding.
Let us share four key ways you can help yourself and those around you avoid harm when it comes to identifying and reporting elder abuse.
- Be on guard against scammers. We should always be wary of strangers, but this holds especially true for seniors. Older Americans are the target of many scammers today as seniors are perceived to be more susceptible to fraudulent scams through the internet, the mail, and over the telephone. As a senior, try to be suspect of anyone who communicates with you that you do not know. Before you share any personal information be sure to research who is contacting you and make sure they are from the organization the person claims to represent. For example, if someone calls you claiming to be from your bank, hang up, and call your bank back on the telephone number you have to verify the call.
- Build and maintain a support network. Not all of us have family that lives locally. Regardless of where our family lives, however, each of us needs to build and maintain a support network. Whether you build your network out of family members, friends, neighbors, community groups, or a combination of all of these groups, building a network that you can rely on for support and guidance on challenges like elder abuse is critical to ensure that you can successfully age-in-place.
- Learn more about potential scams. Each day there seem to be more and more scams targeting Older Americans. Watch the news, read the newspaper, and try to stay up-to-date on the latest scams that are out there. You may not realize that both the FBI and AARP Elder Watch maintain a list of current scams targeting seniors that you can learn about directly from both sources.
- Update your estate planning. Your goals may change over time and it is critical that your estate plan reflects your most current wishes. Who have you named as your health care decision maker or financial decision maker? Who is that person’s back up in case he or she is unavailable? Have you changed your mind recently on who should make these important decisions? Remember, no one has automatic authority to act on your behalf. It is critical for you to work with your elder law attorney to ensure your estate planning names the right person to act for you in a crisis.
We know this article may raise more questions that it answers. Elder abuse is never an easy topic to discuss and even more difficult to face. We encourage you not to wait to learn how to report elder abuse in your state. Do not wait to ask us your questions on this or any elder care issues that impact you or your aging loved ones.