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Elder abuse an ‘epidemic’ problem


            The “golden years” often are not so golden. Physical agility and energy are not what they used to be. Health issues related to aging arise for many elders. Unfortunately, the problem of elder abuse also is rising. As we move into May, Older Americans Month, we look at elder abuse.

            The National Institute on Aging advises that there is a variety of forms of abuse:

Physical: bodily harm, things like slapping, hitting, pinching, pushing.

Emotional/psychological: hurtful words, yelling, threatening, repeatedly ignoring the older person and keeping him or her from family and friends.

Neglect: don’t see to the elder person’s needs.

Abandonment: Leave a dependent adult alone with no plan for their care during the caregiver’s absence.

Sexual: forcing an elder to watch or be part of sexual acts.

Financial: Money or belongings stolen, changing names on will, bank account, life insurance policy, deed to property without the elder’s permission.

Healthcare fraud: over-charging for services, billing twice for the same service, falsifying Medicaid or Medicare claims, charging for care not provided.

            Most victims reportedly are women, but it happens to some men, too, older people with no family or friends nearby, people with dementia, memory problems or disabilities. Elder abuse affects people who depend on others to help them meet their daily needs, things like bathing, dressing, meal preparations, and taking medications. People who are frail are easy targets for abuse.

            The signs to look for when you suspect elder abuse include:

  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Depression or confusion.
  • Weight loss.
  • Signs of trauma, like rocking back and forth.
  • Agitated, violent.
  • Withdrawn.
  • Unexplained burns, bruises or scars.
  • Unwashed hair, dirty clothes and just looks messy.
  • Develops bedsores or other conditions that can be prevented.

            When you suspect elder abuse, talk to the person when it is just the two of you to find out what is happening and who is harming her or him. He or she may be afraid to say anything lest the conditions become worse. Doctors are mandated to report elder abuse. You might offer to take the person to adult protective services for assistance. You also can contact the Long-/term Care Ombudsman Program at the Administration on Aging.

            June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. For more information about elder abuse visit and The aging population is rising. So has elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. The second link has information and videos to help you to understand the problems and threats to older Americans.

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