By Paul Downey
CEO & President, Senior Community Centers
Elder abuse victims often live in silent desperation, fearing retaliation from their abusers. Many times, it takes the courage of a family member or loved one to take action and stop the abuse.
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, “elder abuse refers to intentional or negligent acts by a caregiver or trusted individual that causes (or potentially causes) harm to a vulnerable elder.” California’s most prevalent areas of elder abuse are physical and emotional abuse, financial abuse, and abuse in long-term care facilities.
Elder abuse can occur anywhere and affects seniors across all socio-economic groups, geographic locations, educational backgrounds and cultures. However, women and “older” elders are more likely to be victimized. Dementia and other mental health conditions are significant risk factors.
Elder abuse often comes with physical and behavioral warning signs. Physical warning signs may include uncombed or matted hair, malnourishment or dehydration, and unexplained bruises or scratches. An elder may display behavioral warnings signs such as becoming withdrawn, helpless, angry or frightened. Elders may become depressed or withdrawn. It is also important to watch for signs of isolation. Be suspicious if an elder is not given the opportunity to speak freely or have contact with others without the caregiver being present.
The first thing you can do to help prevent elder abuse is to be aware of the possibility of abuse. Look for warnings signs and ask others to do the same. Keep in contact with your older friends, neighbors and relatives. Maintaining consistent communication helps decrease isolation, often a risk factor for mistreatment. Report suspected mistreatment to your local law enforcement or adult protective services agency.
To report suspected abuse in the community, contact your local APS.
San Diego County Aging and Independent Services:
9335 Hazard Way, Suite 100
San Diego, CA 92123
( 858) 339-4661
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