Last week marked World Elder Abuse Awareness Day again – an annual time for reflection first designated back on June 15, 2016. The goal then and now has focused on better informing the public about the widespread and diverse types of abuse that many of our most vulnerable senior citizens routinely endure. This year saw the Bay County Council on Aging receive notice for the outstanding work they do each and every day as they try to assist area seniors with the challenges they face on a daily basis.
Since the World Health Organization and the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse first assigned June 15 as a special day devoted to promoting awareness of senior abuse, many have used the annual occasion as an opportunity to provide greater assistance to seniors as well. Groups like the Bay County Council on Aging have taken a leading role in that effort, and are even worthier of commendation for not limiting their efforts to just one day out of the year. The Council does what we all should be doing: providing seniors with the assurances and assistance they need to ensure that none simply endure abuse that should be reported, investigated, and prosecuted when appropriate.
The Problem is Widespread
While many other cultures around the world revere their honored elders, seniors in the United States have often been subjected to starkly different treatment. Elder abuse is an ongoing and serious problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly one out of every ten seniors experience some form of abuse in their homes – and those are just the incidents that are reported. These victims can suffer a variety of different indignities, ranging from financial manipulation and neglect to physical, emotional, and even sexual abuse. In 90% of reported instances, it is a family member perpetrating the abuse. Elder abuse is also far more common in assisted living facilities than most people would assume.
When incidents like this are discovered, it is important that they be reported promptly to someone who can help to end the abuse and bring the perpetrators to justice. The Council on Aging encourages seniors and their loved ones to report any incident of elder abuse. They also take note of obvious signs of abuse among the seniors with whom they come into contact, and promptly report all suspicions to the relevant law enforcement officials.
Be Aware: Signs Your Loved One is Suffering Abuse
If you have a senior loved one in your life, be alert to signs that he or she is enduring abuse. These signs can include everything from obvious bruises, abrasions, and broken bones to subtler indications like depression, an unexplained loss of confidence, or a lack of desire to participate in normal activities. Abused seniors often withdraw as they struggle to cope with the indignities to which they are being subjected.
At times, you may become aware of bedsores, or notice that your loved one has lost an unusual amount of weight. He or she may seem to have poor hygiene, or medical problems that are not being properly addressed. These are all indications that neglect is occurring, and concerns should be raised without delay. In some instances of physical abuse, you may even note that the senior adult has a seemingly hostile relationship with caregivers. If your loved one is not usually argumentative or aggressive in that manner, it may be an indication that he or she is not being treated properly.
Finally, financial abuse is an ever-present issue. By some estimates, the reported financial abuse in the country approaches nearly $3 billion each year. If your loved one’s accounts seem to be drained unexpectedly, or if he or she is writing an unusual number of mysterious checks, there could be some form of coercive conduct at work, or an outright financial scam. Make certain that you properly investigate the issue.
Seniors, Protect Yourselves
If you’re a senior concerned about your safety, there are often steps that you can take to minimize the risk that you will suffer this sort of abuse. Naturally, you want to begin by doing all that you can to take care of your own health so that you remain as active as possible. There are, however, other things that you should do to protect yourself as well:
- Remain connected. Whether that involves spending time at community centers, or just remaining in contact with family and friends, do all that you can to ensure that you are not isolated.
- Handle your own mail. In many abusive settings, the abuser tries to control mail delivery and other access to the outside world. Try to avoid that situation, if at all possible.
- Make sure that you have your own phone, and have working numbers for loved ones.
- Do not provide personal information or financial details over the phone or via email.
- Know your rights and protect them zealously. Your paid caregivers are your employees, and you have a right to express your concerns and take issue with their decisions.
Finally, make certain that you have properly planned for your twilight years. While some view estate planning as nothing more than a way to manage your assets when you get older and properly dispose of them when you die, there are other concerns that must be addressed as well. Create powers of attorney to ensure that you have a trusted loved one or other trustworthy representative looking after your interests to guard against unscrupulous individuals who might wish you harm.
Robert Kulas Attorneys at Law can help you with your efforts to better secure your future and protect yourself against financial harm and a loss of control over your own wellbeing. With sound estate planning now, we can help you or your senior loved one ensure that you have the legal documents you need to guard against many types of elder abuse. Protect yourself and those you love by learning more about the scourge of elder abuse and what you can do to prevent it. Call us today at (772) 398-0720 or visit us online to find out how we can help.