Let's Put An End To Elder Abuse

Let's talk about what no one is talking about...

Remember that friend you used to have coffee with every Tuesday until a few months ago? At first you thought she was busy because her adult son or daughter moved in with her, then you saw her at the doctor's office and she seemed to have aged 5 years over the last two months. Of course, you started to worry about her health but could it be something else?

One of the saddest "invisible" problems facing our elderly is the very real threat of elder abuse. It is estimated that one out of every ten seniors will encounter some sort of abuse (physical, psychological, sexual or verbal) or financial exploitation during their golden years; so why is it something we hear so little about?

One of the answers is that many cases of elder abuse are unidentified and even more go unreported. Not all cases have a neon sign clearly indicating what it is; most are subtle and fear of making a wrongful accusation keeps many people, including those being abused, from speaking up. Often times it is because they feel ashamed or embarrassed or are in denial that the abuse is actually occurring. If the abuse involves a family member the victim may be worried that their abuser will get in trouble or they will end up in a nursing home if no one is there to take care of them. These are all real concerns but so is the reality of the crime.

As we age it becomes harder to stay involved with and connected to our communities. As a result, older people are more likely to experience social isolation which increases their odds of abuse and neglect. It happens across all socioeconomic groups and cultures and can happen anywhere they are disconnected from social supports. These places can include the senior's own home, in institutional settings or even in hospitals. While anyone can be a target, studies show that women and people over the age of 80 are the most likely to experience abuse.

So what can we do to stop it? The biggest thing we can all do is to be aware!

• Keep in contact with your older friends and relatives

• Remain alert for the possibility of abuse

• Ask questions and really listen to the answers especially if you notice a change in an older adult

• Don't be afraid to report the situation

Elder abuse is an injustice with many consequences and is, unfortunately, a wide-spread problem. It is up to all of us to help prevent it and, when it happens, report it. Reports to Adult Protective Services remain anonymous and can be made on-line at https://dphhs.mt.gov or by calling 844-277-9300.

Remember, aging is natural but abuse is not. Remain alert and keep a look out for your friends, neighbors and especially yourself.


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