Successful Aging: Do you recognize the signs of elder abuse?
As with many important issues related to aging, there’s a date set aside to draw attention to what is considered one of the most serious public health and human rights crisis facing our nation. That is the mistreatment of our elderly, or elder abuse. June 15 was World Elder
Abuse Awareness Day acknowledging physical abuse, caregiver neglect, abandonment, financial exploitation, psychological and sexual abuse.
Take this true or false quiz to check your knowledge on the facts. Increasing your awareness may help protect you and those whom you love from abuse.
1. Elder abuse is a big deal.
2. Most elder abuse occurs in nursing homes.
3. Physical abuse of an older person usually is obvious.
4. Most victims of elder abuse are women.
5. Elder abuse is a private matter.
6. Elder abuse is costly in dollars.
7. Opioids are a new elder abuse threat.
8. The signs of elder abuse are known.
9. Adult children have a negligible role to play in protecting their parents from financial abuse.
10. Laws have been passed to address financial abuse.
1. True. Indeed, it is. One in 10 adults in the U.S. is abused, according to a 2010 Elder Mistreatment Study. Yet only one out of 14 cases of elder abuse are reported to authorities, according to a report by the National Academies.
2. False. Most of this abuse occurs at home by family members and other loved ones an older person knows and trust. These include adult children, spouses, partners and others.
3. False. Bodily harm can occur with no signs. A twisted arm does not necessarily result in a visual injury. Bruises may be misinterpreted as a fall or just part of normal aging.
4. True. In many cases, spouses are the perpetrators.
5. False. It is considered a public health crisis. It is similar to how we have viewed domestic violence against women and children as a private matter. Elder abuse and domestic violence are public concerns for safety, health, human rights and dignity.
6. True. According to an FBI investigation in 2017, almost 50,000 people over 60 lost $342.5 million from financial exploitation and scams. Mistreatment of older adults is costly to society at an estimated billions of dollars.
7. True. We know that a growing number of older adults misuse opioids including oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl. Others are taking or misusing their medications causing the older adult to be exploited by these elder and opioid abusers.
8. True. We know signs of elder abuse. These include poor hygiene, lack of enough food in the house, bedsores and giving uncharacteristic large cash gifts to caregivers and significant withdrawals. Sometimes there are physical signs such as a black eye or broken bones which are blamed on a fall or other accident. An abuser can be aggressive, demeaning and verbally aggressive. Add to that signing legal documents that the victim is unable to explain their meaning.
9. False. Adult children have a role to play. It begins with a conversation. Parents can sign a financial power of attorney form giving the adult child authority to manage their finances if parents can no longer manage them. Adult children can also encourage parents to sign up for direct deposits of their checks and introduce themselves to a representative of the parents’ bank to fill out a “trusted contact” form. This lets financial institutions put a temporary hold on funds when there is a reasonable suspicions of exploitation.
10. True. The recently signed Senior Safe Act protects financial advisers and firms from liability when reporting financial exploitation of an older client. The law also encourages banks and brokerage houses to train their employees to identify and report suspected elder fraud.
What to do in case you suspect elder abuse? In California, call Adult Protective Services or the police department.
Be aware and responsible. We all have roles to play. Note, elder abuse can happen to anyone.