June 2022- Elder Abuse Awareness Month
June is World Elder Abuse Awareness month! This month works to not only educate people on the topic of elder abuse but to also increase reporting numbers as elder abuse is under-reported and start discussions on how to recognize and prevent this abuse. The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations (UN) launched the first World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on June 15, 2006, in an effort to unite communities around the world in raising awareness about elder abuse.
Elder abuse is widespread. Every year an estimated 5 million, or 1 in 10 older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. And that’s only part of the picture: Experts believe that elder abuse is significantly under-reported, in part because so many of our communities lack the social supports that would make it easier for those who experience abuse to report it. This is where you can help by knowing the warning signs and reporting abuse when you suspect it. When we come together, we can prevent elder abuse from happening.
Some Warning Signs of Abuse
Elder abuse includes financial abuse/scams, neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. Cassie Caple, Contract Administrator with the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan and Kent County Elder Abuse Coalition Coordinator explains a few of these warning signs. “Whether you are a professional with an older adult client, or a family member checking in on a loved one, a few physical things you can look out for include unexplained bruises, reports of recent falls, and sudden weight loss. Or if you are having a conversation and they mention something along the lines of unpaid bills, feeling lonely, or perhaps not taking their medication, these can be signs of abuse as well. So, it is really good to check in, ask what they might need, and have that heightened awareness,” Cassie shares. Taking the time to intentionally check in with the older adults in your life is a great first step. It is recommended that you have this conversation with the older adult alone so they can feel safe in sharing any concerns.
Once you are educated on what to look out for, and feel that abuse may be occurring, it is time to take action. If you have concerns that an older adult in your life is not in a safe and healthy living situation, you can report this to reputable agencies. Below are a few reliable places to start:
- Adult Protective Services investigators protect vulnerable adults and staff will investigate allegations within 24 hours after the report is received. APS has a 24/7 Hotline: 855-444-3911 where anyone is able to make a report.
- Long Term Care Ombudsman advocate for residents in long term care facilities: 1-866-485-9393 or visit www.mltcop.org
- Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Complaint Hotline takes complaints against various state-licensed and federally certified health facilities, agencies, and programs: 800-882-6006 or visit www.Michigan.gov/lara
If you’d like further resources on elder abuse, the Kent County Elder Abuse Coalition at www.protectkentseniors.org specializes in compiling up-to-date information on scams, advocating for seniors, and remaining dedicated to the elimination of elder abuse in Kent County and the surrounding areas. The Michigan Elder Abuse Task Force through the state of Michigan at www.michigan.gov also shares a number of resources. And lastly, the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan can connect you with community resources at (616) 456-5664.