According to AARP, baby boomers are turning 65 at the amazing rate of between 8,000-10,000 each and every day! By 2030, there will be about 72.1 million older people, making up about 20% of the population. And of those huge numbers, some 11 % of them are likely to experience some sort of elder abuse as they age.

What Is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is defined by the National Center on Elder Abuse as “intentional or negligent acts by a caregiver or trusted individual that results in harm to a vulnerable senior citizen.” It encompasses physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, intentional neglect, abandonment, and, in some cases, self-neglect. Of all the forms of Elder Abuse, financial abuse is the most common.

The sad fact is, elder abuse can take place almost anywhere – at home, in a care facility or in another institution. Those with dementia are the most likely targets, followed by “elder” women. And mental health and substance abuse issues – of both the abuser and/or the victim – often come into play as well.   

How Do You Know If An Elderly Loved One Is Being Abused?

It may take some detective work on your part to determine whether an elderly loved one is being abused. Often they will be hesitant to speak out. They may be embarrassed or ashamed to admit they are being abused, especially if the abuser is a family member. Or, they may be worried that if they report abuse, their loved ones will move them to a nursing home or other institution. Even worse, they may be afraid that if they report abuse, their abuser will retaliate and the abuse will get worse.

So what are the warning signs?

•  Look for slap marks, bruises, cigarette burns, or other signs of physical injury

•  Look for signs of neglect like pressure sores, lack of personal hygiene, dehydration, or malnutrition

•  Watch for signs that your loved one is becoming emotionally withdrawn, withdraws from normal activities, or other changes in behavior

•  Pay special attention to any unexplained sexually transmitted diseases or sexually oriented injuries

•  And finally, pay particular attention to any change in their finances – a revised will, new loans or bank accounts, large withdrawals, or checks written to unauthorized individuals  

How to Prevent Elder Abuse

Although it’s impossible to guarantee that you or a loved one won’t be the victim of Elder Abuse, there are many steps you can take to protect yourself from most forms of abuse:

 •  Have any income you receive (Social Security, dividend checks, pension checks) directly deposited into your account

•  Meet with your attorney to create an estate plan while you are able; include provisions for a living will, a revocable trust, and a durable power of attorney for healthcare or asset management

•  Do not accept “prizes,” “loans,” or “investments” that are offered to you over the phone; remember the old adage, “if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is”

•  Shred or destroy bank statements, credit card statements, receipts or other financial records before placing them in the trash

•  Establish a social network that you can rely on. Because isolation can make seniors more vulnerable to abuse, create a buddy system to attend events, make phone calls, and conduct “wellness” checks

What To Do If You Suspect Elder Abuse

If you suspect Elder Abuse, act sooner rather than later! If you believe that someone is in immediate danger, call 911. If you suspect abuse or neglect contact the Adult Protective Services agency serving your county. In Lehigh County, contact The Office of Aging & Adult Services, Allentown, PA, 610-782-3034; in Northampton County, contact The Area Agency on Aging, Easton, PA, 610-559-3245.

At Senior Helpers, we take even the slightest hint of Elder Abuse very seriously. Our caregivers are trained to observe and document the behavior of their clients throughout each shift. If they suspect that a client may be the victim of any form of Elder Abuse, they have been instructed to report their suspicions to the Senior Helpers office. Our management will then assume the responsibility of reporting it to the appropriate resources.

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