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June 15, 2017 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). On that day, communities all over the world will highlight the growing problem of elder abuse in order to raise awareness and engage more active support for our older adults.

The U.S. Administration on Aging estimates that as many as 1 in 10 older Americans are abused or neglected each year.  Older adults are vital, contributing members of our society and their abuse or neglect diminishes all of us. We all have a role to play in protecting our neighbors and valued members of our communities. We need to talk more about this problem, raise awareness, engage every community in local solutions and educate people about the impact of elder abuse and neglect.

Elder abuse can be financial, emotional, physical or sexual. It also includes people who are neglected by caregivers and those who neglect themselves (self-neglect). The consequences of elder abuse are grave: older adults who are abused are twice as likely to be hospitalized, four times as likely to go into nursing homes and three times as likely to die. While studies show that most abusers are family members, trusted professionals may also target older adults. Abuse can happen in any setting and it can happen to anyone.

According to the U.S. Administration on Aging, America’s older adult population is growing rapidly; this will be particularly apparent between the years 2010 and 2030, when the baby boomer generation reaches age 65. As more people live longer and age in their communities, increasing complexities in medical conditions and declines in cognitive status make them more vulnerable to victimization.  Elders who experience abuse or neglect face a higher risk of premature death. It is estimated that elders in the U.S. lose a minimum of $2.9 billion annually due to financial abuse and exploitation.  Financial abuse is a growing problem but it often goes unreported, in some cases due to shame or embarrassment on the part of the victim, or an inability to report due to cognitive or other impairments.

According to MA Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) Secretary Alice Bonner, “Each of us has a responsibility to get involved so that people in our community can live safely and with dignity as they age. Raising awareness and continuing to build strong support for elders are critical aspects of our work at the Executive Office of Elder Affairs.”

The goals of EOEA’s Protective Services program are:

  • To prevent, mitigate and eliminate elder abuse, neglect, mistreatment and financial exploitation;
  • To encourage reporting of suspected elder abuse so that appropriate action can be taken.

EOEA has implemented a newly consolidated Elder Abuse Hotline to streamline and simplify the process for reporting.

Anyone can report elder abuse or neglect. If you are concerned about an elder at risk, call the Elder Abuse Hotline at 1(800)922-2275 at any time day or night. Your confidentiality is assured. All reports will be referred to the local Protective Service Agency to investigate and to determine the best course of action to help the elder to be safe.

What else can you do to help?  Here are a few steps that you can take:

  • Provide support for someone who is a caregiver to an older adult. Caregiving is hard work, and providing a break even for a few hours can bring great relief;
  • Ask your faith-based organization to add information about elder abuse to their newsletters!
  • Educate yourself and others about the warning signs of abuse, neglect and self-neglect. Learn the Red Flags of abuse;
  • If you see something, say something: if the older adult lives in the community, report your concerns to your local Protective Services program (1(800)922-2275 ) or law enforcement; for residents of long-term care facilities, report to the Long-Term Care Ombudsman
  • Volunteer for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program. Ombudsmen work to resolve problems related to the health, safety, welfare and rights of persons who live in long-term care facilities;
  • Get involved with organizations that focus on elder advocacy;
  • Be a friendly visitor to an older person living in the community – contact your local Council on Aging or Senior Center to find out about programs;
  • Become knowledgeable about scams. Scams can ensnare any consumer but some specifically target older adults. Check out this helpful scam checklist;
  • Be a good neighbor and talk with older adults near you. Be aware and alert for the possibility of abuse;

Creating supportive, inclusive communities is essential to preventing elder abuse. Everyone can act to protect seniors – no act is too small. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is an opportunity to protect seniors by raising awareness about elder abuse. It starts with one person and one action.

Call to report abuse or neglect any time: MA Elder Abuse Hotline: 1(800)922-2275

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