Elder abuse is abhorrent, and it is not something that many people imagine could happen to our loved ones. Unfortunately, elder abuse is much more common than most people realize. According to data available from the National Council on Aging, around one out of every ten Americans aged 60 and over have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some estimates say that as many as five million elders are abused each year in this country. However, elder abuse is vastly underreported. Here, we want to discuss some ways that you can help prevent the abuse of your elderly family members or friends.
Learn the signs
The National Council on Aging provides an excellent datasheet about elder abuse, including some of the top signs and symptoms that friends, family members, and caregivers should be on the lookout for. Red flags suggesting that elder abuse may be occurring include the following:
- Unexplained bruises or welts
- Unpaid bills or utilities turned off
- Missing medications
- Isolation by a caregiver
- Unusual changes in a will or other financial documents
It is important to understand that elder abuse could be committed by any person close to the elderly person. This can include staff members at nursing homes or assisted care facilities, supposed “friends” of the elderly person, and even family members.
Talk to friends and family members
Caring for elderly friends or family members, or even the older adults in your community, should start with a conversation with your family and friends. When the effort of caring for and checking in on an older person is spread out over a group of people, the overall burden on any one person is much lower.
It is crucial to talk about social isolation when discussing elder abuse. Older adults without a strong social network face a much greater risk of suffering from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. It is up to friends, family members, and people in the community to support and engage older adults. Stay in touch with your elderly friends and family members. If you know that there are elderly community members without much support, knock on their door to check-in or give them a call. You can even teach them how to use various video chat apps so they can stay in touch with their friends and family members.
Provide breaks for caregivers
Unfortunately, caregivers are vastly overworked and burned out. If you have been a caregiver before, it is hard to state just how stressful this can become. If you know of somebody who is a caregiver for an elderly person, do what you can to give them some time away, even if it is just for a few hours. Burned out caregivers could slip into patterns of abuse against the person they care for and love.
Encourage bank managers
Financial scams that target elderly people in this country are a growing problem. Many of these scams are committed over the phone or through the internet and revolve off around convincing elderly people to withdraw significant amounts of money or put money on gift cards to send elsewhere. We should encourage all local bank managers (particularly banks that your elderly loved one uses) to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.