By Barbara Zebley-Oldani LBSW Care Coordination Director
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15, 2016
Elder abuse is the intentional act, by a caregiver or trusted individual, which causes harm or risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Elder abuse includes physical abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, sexual abuse, abandonment, self-neglect and emotional or psychological abuse such as verbal threats. Financial exploitation occurs when a person misuses or takes money, property or belongings of an older adult. It is believed that 90% of all types of elder abuse are by a family member or trusted individual. Every year
an estimated five million older Americans are victims of abuse. However, experts believe that for every one report of abuse, as many as 23.5 go unreported.
Elder abuse can happen to anyone. Elder abuse affects older adults across all socio-economic groups, cultures and races. Older adults tend to be more vulnerable because they are sometimes more trusting and can be lonely or socially isolated. Victims of elder abuse are more commonly women and individuals with a cognitive impairment, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
How is the Midland Community responding to this important issue? Senior Services, the Midland County Prosecutor, the Department of Health and Human Services and a variety of other service agencies established The Midland Community Vulnerable Adult Network (MCVAN) in 2015. The service agencies in this network joined together to better coordinate the identification and delivery of needed and available services to abused, neglected and/or exploited vulnerable adults. MCVAN’s purpose is to protect and serve vulnerable adults in our community, by increasing our understanding of the complex issues surrounding abuse.
If you suspect that you or someone you know may be a victim of elder abuse, talk with someone you trust. Ask them to help you sort through your concerns. But don’t wait if you suspect abuse, neglect or financial exploitation of a vulnerable older adult. Report the concerns to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Centralized 24-hour intake at 855-444-3911. Department of Health and Human Services Adult Protective Services receive reports of suspected abuse and conduct investigations to determine if an older adult is in need of protection and/or assistance. Adult Protective Service investigators provide protection to vulnerable adults from abuse, neglect or exploitation by collaborating with and coordinating community resources and services.
Education is critical to preventing elder abuse. Talk about the issue and keep in touch with neighbors who are older or more isolated. Look for signs of elder abuse and report it. Take action to protect yourself—care for your health and stay socially active and involved with family, friends and social groups.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was launched on June 15, 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. The purpose of WEAAD is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.
In addition, WEAAD is in support of the United Nations International Plan of Action acknowledging the significance of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue. WEAAD serves as a call-to-action for individuals, organizations, and communities to raise awareness about elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.