By Mary Frugoli, the Caregiver Homes Branch Manager for the South Shore area in Mass.
How sad that the issue of elder abuse is so widespread that we now have a day and an entire year dedicated to prevention. While the majority of our elders live as part of a loving family, hundreds of thousands of elders are abused each year, with many cases underreported. Elders are particularly vulnerable to abuse for several reasons. Elders who are frail or ill are unable to defend themselves, and are often dependent on the care of others. Often, elders will suffer in silence because they do not want to report their family member and "get them in trouble."
Elder abuse falls into five categories:
- Physical Abuse: shoving, slapping, pinching, restraining an individual
- Emotional Abuse: inflicting emotional pain by ridiculing, yelling, humiliating, isolating or ignoring elder
- Sexual Abuse: any unwanted sexual contact, exposing individual to sexual materials via pictures, videos, etc.
- Financial Exploitation: transfer of funds or other misuse of an elder's finances
- Neglect: failure to provide food, clothing, medication or shelter
- Bruises, burns, cuts can indicate physical abuse.
- Withdrawal from friends and activities, crying, and signs of depression can indicate emotional abuse.
- Bruises or cuts in genital area, sudden incontinence, change in hygiene can indicate sexual abuse.
- Overdrafts at the bank which are a new occurrence or new loan applications can indicate financial exploitation.
- Bed sores, weight loss, or change in hygiene can indicate neglect.
In Massachusetts, you can report elder abuse by calling the Elder Abuse Hotline 1-800-922-2275. In other states, you can call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 through the National Center on Elder Abuse-Administration on Aging. These calls will be handled confidentially, with no risk that the reporter will be identified. Certain people such as RNs, Social Workers, MDs, police, fire, EMTs are mandated reporters and can receive a fine for not making a report. Please do not hesitate to make that call if you feel something is not right.
- Recognizing Elder Abuse and Knowing Your Rights - Aging In Place provides information on elder abuse and resources if you or a loved one have been or are being abused.
- Preventing & Reporting Elder Abuse –This PDF booklet focuses on elder abuse prevention from the California Department of Justice.
- What services are available to stop abuse? – The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse's website provides resources such as legal services and counseling.
- Elder Abuse and Neglect: In Search of Solutions –The American Psychological Association has a section of their website dedicated to elder abuse.