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Stop Elder Abuse!

With a growing global population of elderly people, and as longevity increases, elder abuse is an increasing and serious problem


This month, Johnson McGinnis Elder Care Law & Estate Planning is joining hundreds of organizations nationwide in drawing attention to the growing problem of elder abuse.

June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month, and June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization launched World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) to raise awareness of the cultural, social, economic, and demographic processes that affect elder abuse and neglect.

With a growing global population of elderly people, and as longevity increases, abuse of the elderly is an increasing and serious problem that affects health and human rights and can cause death, so it is vital to raise awareness of it and thus prevent it whenever and wherever possible.

Elder abuse is global and comes in many forms including physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse and also neglect. Elderly people are human and deserve the same dignity and respect as people of all other age groups.

Elderly people are particularly vulnerable to abuse and to being unable to defend themselves and get help as fear and infirmity can be major barriers to seeking and getting help, and sometimes spotting and challenging abuse in the elderly isn’t easy, some are isolated having outlived family and friends, and some are abused in institutions where abuse is not spotted or is covered up, and in some cases the elderly are not given priority by authorities in abuse matters.

Elder abuse is more common than you might think. According to the National Council on Aging, approximately one in ten Americans over the age of sixty have experienced elder abuse.


Abuse is often inflicted by someone who is known and trusted by the victim, such as adult children, a spouse, a friend, a paid caregiver, or a neighbor. It is usually someone that the older person depends on for food, shelter, personal care, companionship or transportation. There are different types of abuse including physical, financial, sexual, emotional, psychological and verbal. Neglect and self-neglect are also forms of abuse, as well as abandonment and inaction that causes harm to the person.


Physical abuse is any kind of physical assault such as slapping, hitting or kicking. It also includes physical confinement to a room, bed or chair, and rough handling. Financial abuse is forcing someone to sell their property or possessions, stealing money, using credit cards without permission, and misusing someone’s power of attorney or joint account. Sexual abuse is unwanted sexual comments or jokes, undesirable sexual contact or touch, or being forced into a relationship. Emotional and psychological abuse is yelling, intimidating, humiliating, insulting, threatening, ignoring or bullying an older person. It can also be withholding visits from family members or treating them like a child. Abuse can happen to anyone including people who live alone, with family or in a nursing home.

Below are just a few of the signs and symptoms of abuse?


  • Depression or anxiety

  • Unexplained physical injuries including bruises, skin tears, pressure sores and broken bones

  • Weight loss or dehydration

  • Fear of a caregiver or desire to withdraw from someone

  • Low self-esteem or changes to personality

  • Inappropriate clothing or clothing that is dirty or in disrepair

  • Poor hygiene

  • Over-sedation

  • Missing items of value such as money, jewelry, or heirlooms


How can you prevent abuse of your loved one? Keep a close eye on them and visit often. Notice how they’re dressed, if the house is clean and if there is food in the fridge. If you live far away, be sure to have someone that you trust check on the person and call frequently. Ask questions and be aware if there are any changes in their mood, behavior or actions. Don’t ignore the signs and symptoms.


If you are a primary caregiver and feel stressed, ask for help and support. Plan for respite time and take breaks from your caregiving role. Unfortunately, abuse is more likely to happen when family become strained or go through a period of high stress.


As an older adult, you can learn how to protect yourself. Put your affairs in order and review your will periodically. Make sure your home is secure and be aware of internet or telephone scams. Do not accept phone calls from anyone asking for financial information or emergency help.


If you fear that someone is in immediate danger call 911. You can also contact Adult Protective Services if you suspect or see signs of abuse. Abuse of older adults is seldom reported because family or friends do not know who to call; do not want to interfere; fear they will damage relationships with other family members; and sometimes fear the abuser themselves.


There is no excuse for abuse! Help keep older adults safe by educating yourself and others. There are many organizations dedicated to preventing abuse of seniors including the National Center on Elder Abuse and the Elder Financial Protection Network.




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