The National Council on Aging reports that 1 in 10 Americans aged 60 and over have experienced some form of abuse, with some estimates putting the number of abused elders at 5 million a year.
Since 2005, June 15 has been designated World Elder Abuse Awareness Day by the United Nations to encourage communities to recognize the issue of elder abuse and provide information and tools to keep them safe.
“There are many factors that make older adults more vulnerable to abuse, ranging from social isolation and functional impairment to poor physical health and dementia,” said Area Agency on Aging President and CEO Mary Lynn Kasunic. “The bottom line is that elder abuse is a significant public health problem and the numbers we have don’t paint a completely accurate picture because many victims are unable or afraid to report the violence. Education and awareness of the issue are vital to the community’s ability to protect the most vulnerable.”
The Area Agency on Aging is running a multi-media awareness and education campaign to reduce vulnerability. Knowing that isolation often can invite vulnerability, abuse and financial exploitation, the agency will promote the Stay Connected-Be Protected campaign through direct mail, social media and email as well as public service announcements and advertising in print, on radio and at selected Harkins Theaters in Maricopa County.
Agency volunteers also will deliver 100 “care bags” to isolated older adults. The bags include an Elder Resource Guide and note cards as well as other items encouraging them to stay connected.
“We also need the general community to be aware of the signs of elder abuse and know what to do when they believe there’s a problem,” Kasunic said. “It’s vitally important that older adults understand the need to stay connected with their families and communities.”
Elder abuse can take the form of physical abuse, sexual assault, emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment and financial exploitation.
5 common signs of potential elder abuse
(Adapted from Dr. Jack Halpern’s “5 Tips for Spotting Elder Abuse”)
- Unintended weight loss due to malnutrition – resulting from lack of food, not illness.
- Bruises, bed sores and broken bones – can be signs of serious neglect or abuse.
- Refusal to speak in front of a caregiver – may signal fear of reprisal.
- Over-medicating by caregivers – may be used for control.
- Inadequate care from the designated caregivers.
What to do if you suspect elder abuse
- Document the signs.
- If you suspect any form of Elder Abuse, contact Adult Protective Services at
- If the abuse is severe or you suspect the person may be in danger of more harm, call 911.
- If you suspect abuse in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, contact the
Area Agency on Aging Ombudsman at the 24-hour Senior HELP LINE: 602-264-4357 (HELP).