Elder Abuse Awareness Day: An opportunity to help vulnerable loved ones

An estimated 5 million people suffer from elder abuse every single year. Elder Abuse Awareness Day, June 15, is designed to bring attention to this public and human rights issue.

Elder abuse is not uncommon. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reports that an estimated 5 million Americans are victims of elder abuse every single year. Experts with the agency go even further, stating that this number is likely highly underestimated. Instead, it is estimated that for every reported incident of elder abuse there are likely 23 additional cases that go unreported.

With statistics like these it is no surprise that the United Nations states elder abuse is an important public and human rights issue, an issue that deserves more attention than it currently gets. In an effort to meet this goal, the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse along with the World Health Organization at the United Nations instituted World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

What is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day?

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is celebrated on June 15, annually. It began in 2006 as an effort to increase awareness of this form of abuse while also educating the public on common signs of abuse and available courses of action if one suspects a loved one is a victim.

The campaign also provides clarification on two points. First, elder abuse can happen anywhere. It can happen in nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities. It can also happen in private residences. Second, this form of abuse does not just happen to the elderly. Younger people are qualifying for these same services and can also fall victim to this type of abuse.

What are common signs of elder abuse?

Elder abuse can take on many different forms. It can be blatant abuse or neglect. Common types of abuse, examples and corresponding red flags include:

  • Neglect. This form of abuse occurs when a caregiver or other trusted individual fails to provide an adequate level of care or abandons the recipient. A lack of basic hygiene, appropriate clothing, medical aids like a walker or hearing aids or the presence of bed sores can all be indications that neglect is present.
  • Emotional abuse. Actions or words that result in mental anguish or distress can be classified as emotional abuse. Signs that a loved one is suffering from emotional abuse can include an unexplained change in behavior and a refusal to see visitors.
  • Sexual abuse. Any non-consensual sexual acts, or sexual acts involving a person unable to provide consent, qualify as sexual abuse. This includes standard forms of sexual assault and battery like molestation or rape as well as explicit photographing and forced nudity. The presence of unexplained sexually transmitted diseases and bruising near the genital areas can be red flags of sexual abuse.
  • Financial exploitation. This form of abuse involves fraudulent practices for financial gain. Examples include cashing checks without authorization, misusing funds or con jobs. A lack of expected amenities or transfer of property to a caregiver can be signs of this form of abuse.

The NCEA provides informational brochures for those who are concerned a loved one is suffering abuse. This information is available in both English and Spanish.

What can be done if elder abuse is suspected?

If elder abuse is suspected it is important to report the abuse to the appropriate agency.

Once reported, it is also important to keep in mind that you can hold the abuser responsible for his or her actions through a civil suit. A civil suit can result in monetary awards to help cover the costs associated with the abuse. This could include additional medical care, prescription costs and rehabilitation. An experienced nursing home neglect lawyer can review your case and help to better ensure your legal rights and any potential remedies are protected.