World Elder Abuse Awareness Day: Protecting Our Elders

by | Jun 15, 2024

Every June 15th, we recognize World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). This day shines a light on the mistreatment of older adults, a sadly widespread issue. WEAAD is a call to action for all of us – individuals, organizations, and communities – to work together to prevent abuse and ensure a safe, dignified life for our valued elders.

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse can be any act, or neglectful failure to act, by another person that causes harm to an elder. This harm can be physical, emotional, or financial. It can happen anywhere – at home, in long-term care facilities, or even hospitals. There are five main types of elder abuse:

  • Neglect or isolation: When an elder’s basic needs are not met, or they are withdrawn from social interaction.
  • Physical abuse: Inflicting physical pain or injury.
  • Sexual abuse: Any unwanted sexual contact.
  • Financial abuse and exploitation: Stealing or misusing an elder’s money or assets.
  • Emotional or psychological abuse: Verbal threats, insults, humiliation, or intimidation.

Why is Elder Abuse Invisible?

Many factors contribute to the hidden nature of elder abuse. Shame, fear, and ageism can keep victims silent, especially if the abuser is a family member or caregiver. Cognitive decline can also make it difficult for them to speak up.

How Can We Help?

The good news is that elder abuse is preventable. Here are some ways we can make a difference:

  • Stay connected: Regularly check in with older friends, family, and neighbors.
  • Educate yourself: Learn the signs of abuse, both physical and emotional.
  • Empower elders: Inform them of their rights and available resources.
  • Report suspected abuse: Don’t hesitate to contact Adult Protective Services or law enforcement.

Do I Need to Report Elder Abuse?

Knowing when and how to report is crucial. While reporting requirements vary by state, many professionals who work with elders are mandated by law to report suspected abuse. In Florida, for instance, everyone is a mandatory reporter. You can find a list of state reporting hotlines and websites through The Sketchley Method, or by googling “[your state] adult protective services hotline. Some states have one main line for all adult abuse reports, while some states have specific hotlines for each county.

Don’t hesitate to take action. If you suspect abuse, report it immediately to Adult Protective Services, a Long-Term Care Ombudsman, or law enforcement. These agencies can investigate the situation and ensure the elder’s safety. For emergencies or life-threatening situations, call 911 or your local police department.

Resources

To learn more about elder abuse visit the National Center on Elder Abuse or call 1-855-500-3537. If you suspect that either you or a loved one is experiencing elder abuse, call your local adult protective services hotline. If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, call 911 or your local law enforcement agency. If you need help recovering assets or seeking legal protections, contact an elder law attorney. For a consultation with The Sketchley Law Firm, P.A., call (850) 894-0152. By working together, we can create a safe and supportive environment where our elders can thrive. Let’s break the silence and end elder abuse.