World Elder Abuse Awareness Day: warning signs, resources

Author: CBS News
Published: Updated:

Friday marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Each year hundreds of thousands of older persons are abused, neglected, and exploited by family members and others.

Of the known cases of elderly abuse and neglect, researchers say 89 percent happened in private homes, and more than half at the hands of children or other relatives.

Many victims are people who are older, frail, and vulnerable and cannot help themselves and depend on others to meet their most basic needs.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office posted a list on Facebook of red flags to be aware of:

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse is an umbrella term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.

What makes an older adult vulnerable to abuse?

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, social isolation and mental impairment (such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease) are two factors that may make an older person more vulnerable to abuse. But, in some situations, studies show that living with someone else (a caregiver or a friend) may increase the chances for abuse to occur. A history of domestic violence may also make a senior more susceptible to abuse.

What should you do if you see or hear of abuse?

If you see someone being physically hurt or threatened with a weapon, call a law enforcement emergency line such as 911. Be part of their “safety plan,” the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life recommends. A safety plan is created by the victim with the help of a professional. The intent is to plan for a victim’s safety needs before another violent episode erupts. If you believe they are in immediate danger, call 911.

Are there criminal penalties for the abusers?

It is a violation of State and Federal law for any person, including facility staff, volunteers, visitors, family members or guardians, or another resident, to neglect or abuse a resident. The National Academy of Elder Law Attornies can help.

Although there are variations across the country, in most states there are several laws that address criminal penalties for various types of elder abuse. Laws vary state to state. Some states have increased penalties for those who victimize older adults. Increasingly, across the country, law enforcement officers and prosecutors are trained on elder abuse and ways to use criminal and civil laws to bring abusers to justice.

Resources to learn more about the elderly:

• Click here for the National Center on Elder Abuse‘s to state elder abuse hotlines.

• The National Clearninghouse on Abuse in Later Life has useful resources for preventing elder abuse.

• The Foundation Aiding The Elderly serves as a voice for patients and to bring about national reforms.

• The Administration on Aging website is designed to provide a comprehensive overview of a wide variety of topics, programs and services related to aging.

• Click here for more information about National Citizens’ Commission for Nursing Home Reform.

Information used in this report was originally published on Nov. 9, 2016 on CBS News.

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