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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2024— How to Prevent, Identify, and End Elder Abuse

12:00am | & Tips and Advice

Sadly, elder abuse is a common global issue, with around 1 in 6 people aged 60 and older experiencing some form of abuse in community settings during the past year, according to the WHO.

In fact, rates of elder abuse are high in institutions such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities, with 2 in 3 staff members reporting that they have committed abuse in the past year.

Alarmingly enough, the issue of elder abuse is only predicted to increase over the next few decades, as many countries are experiencing rapidly ageing populations.

The global population of people aged 60 and above will more than double, from 900 million in 2015 to about 2 billion in 2050.

With our elderly loved ones being at such a high risk of experiencing elder abuse, it is essential that we ensure that they are receiving the gentle, kind, and proper care and treatment that they deserve.

Fortunately for you, there is something you can do about it—You have the power to end elder abuse by raising awareness this year on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

What is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day?

Officiated in 2006 by The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organisation,  Elder Abuse Awareness Day  is a day designed to raise awareness of a serious human rights violation— The abuse of senior citizens.

By promoting a better understanding of what elder abuse is, what the signs are, and how to address it, we can come together as a society to put an end to elder abuse.

When is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day?

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is on 15 June every year.

This year, in 2024, the day falls on a Saturday.

What is Elder Abuse and What is Considered Abuse?

Abuse Definition—What Does Abuse Mean?

Abuse is defined as the unfair, improper, cruel, violent, or harmful treatment of a person.

With this in mind, elder abuse is defined as the harm or threatened harm to an adult’s health or welfare caused by another.

While many might associate the word “abuse” with physical injury or harm, remember that abuse manifests itself in many forms.

Just a few examples of this include emotional abuse, financial abuse, and sexual abuse.

Neglect Definition—What is Neglect?

The definition of neglect is to fail to properly care for someone or something.

Just like abuse, neglect takes many forms.

For reference, a few examples of what neglect might look like are leaving a vulnerable person alone in a dangerous situation, not providing the basic necessities such as food and water, or not treating injuries, infections, or illnesses.

It is also possible for a person to neglect themself, which is known as self-neglect.

Examples of self-neglect could be failing to maintain your hygiene by not bathing or brushing your teeth, refusing to seek medical attention for wounds or sickness, or not eating.

Warning Signs to Watch Out For—How to Recognise Different Types of Elder Abuse

Signs of Physical Abuse:

  • Bruises or strange marks (burns, cuts, bleeding, handprints, rope marks on wrists or ankles)
  • Strained or sore muscles
  • Broken or sprained bones
  • Recurring injuries
  • When asked about injury, person doesn’t give a direct answer
  • Afraid to be touched
  • Not wanting to see a doctor
  • Not wanting to be alone with a particular person or left by themselves

Financial Abuse:

  • Strange ATM activity
  • Suddenly not having enough money
  • Unusually large withdrawals from bank accounts
  • Signatures on checks don’t match the person’s signature
  • Not paying bills
  • Lifestyle doesn’t match the person’s financial situation

Signs of Verbal or Mental Abuse:

  • Changes in personality, mood, and behaviours
  • Loss of interest in social interactions
  • Self-isolation
  • Unreasonably frightened by everyday situations
  • Extremely eager to do everything they are asked

Signs of Sexual Abuse:

  • Unexplainable infections or STDs
  • Torn, stained, or bloody undergarments
  • Vaginal or anal pain, irritation, or bleeding
  • Strange sexual dynamic with carer
  • Pain when using the bathroom
  • Fear or anxiety when the carer is around
  • Bruised genitals, thighs, breasts, or buttocks
  • Anxiety and fear about using the restroom or bathing

Signs of Neglect or Self-neglect:

  • Visible weight loss
  • Unusually hungry or thirsty
  • Lack of medical aids such as proper medication, walkers, canes, glasses, hearing aids, etc.
  • Refuses to seek medical help even when needed
  • Person with dementia left without supervision
  • Lack of basic hygiene or basic everyday items such as food, water, clean clothing, soap, etc.
  • Alcohol bottles/ drugs lying around the house

Can Elder Abuse Be Prevented?

Elder abuse is always the fault of the abuser—The victim is never to blame.

That being said, even though we cannot control the actions of others, there are still safety measures we can take to lower the likelihood of elder abuse.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day— 6 Ways to Help Prevent Elder Abuse

1. Encourage Your Loved Ones to Continue Their Favourite Hobbies

Oftentimes, people associate getting older with giving up the hobbies they used to love, but this is not true. Encouraging your elderly loved ones to participate in community events and hobbies not only keeps them active, but also increases their sense of independence. Keeping socially involved lowers the risk of depression or isolation, thus lowering the risk of suffering from abuse.

2. Be Careful When Choosing a Caregiver, Family Member, or Nursing Home

It is important to be selective of who you choose to be your loved one’s caregiver or which family member they live with. If you are finding friends and family who are willing to take care of your loved one, it helps to divide the tasks among them so that all of the responsibility doesn’t fall on a single person. This prevents one person from getting overly stressed and taking out their frustration on the elderly person. It is also important to be wary of which family members or friends you allow to take care of them, as people with a history of abuse, violence, or short tempers are not good choices for caregivers.

 If you decide to hire a professional caregiver, make sure that they go through a thorough background check.  Before selecting a nursing home for your loved one to live in or a caregiver to help them out, it is essential that you do your research to ensure that your loved ones are in the best of hands. Even after selecting a caregiver, be sure to observe the way that they interact with the senior, as well as monitor your loved one’s mental and physical health.

3. Keep in Constant Contact with Them

Don’t forget to check up on your loved ones and see how they’re doing. Loneliness and feeling like no one cares about them can increase their risk of depression, isolation, and withdrawal from society, making them more vulnerable to elder abuse. Talking to them, even over the phone, gives you insight into how they’re doing, as well as how they’re spending their days. This way, you are able to monitor their moods and behaviours, looking for anything out of the ordinary that could indicate there is some type of elder abuse going on.

4. Educate Them about Scams

Unfortunately, it is no surprise that senior citizens are one of the most targeted demographics when it comes to scams. That is why it is especially important that senior citizens are educated on common scams that target older adults, the warning signs of a scam, and how to avoid them. Teach your elderly loved ones to always be protective of their personal information and to click on strange links or trust suspicious-sounding emails, texts, numbers, or calls. If they are unsure whether or not it is a scam, advise them to always get a second opinion before taking any action or giving away any personal information. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

5. Encourage Them to Stay in Control of Aspects of Their Lives as Much as Possible

While some seniors may have reached a point where they do not feel comfortable having total control over their finances or managing important information, it is still important that the senior is as involved as possible in these aspects of their lives. Even if the senior doesn’t directly manage their finances, they should be educated and aware of where their money is going. It also helps to have more than one person in charge of managing an elderly person’s finances so that one person doesn’t have unlimited power over the money. When one person is in charge, it is much easier for them to get greedy and take advantage of the senior’s assets. You can avoid this problem by listing multiple people on the financial power of attorney documents.

Beyond finances, it is important that the senior tries to have some form of independence. Having some form of control in their lives boosts their confidence and prevents them from being fully dependent on others who could take advantage of them. A form of independence that dramatically affects a person’s confidence is mobility. Installing a stair lift chair into your home is a solution that would help your elderly loved ones gain back their independence and mobility. A stairlift for the elderly, the disabled, or anyone with a mobility issue, is the ultimate solution for gaining access to the entirety of your home. Contact Acorn Stairlifts  today to get a free, no-obligation stair chair lift quote and home survey.

6. Get Them Involved in Senior Support Groups

Senior support groups are a great way for older loved ones to get social interaction with people their age. Socialising not only helps older people connect with others, but it also provides them with an outlet to discuss their feelings and struggles, as well as receive the proper help for them. If they are in a support group, it is more likely that they will open up about any issues they are facing, including elderly abuse.

What to Do if You Think a Loved One Has or Is Suffering from Elder Abuse

If your loved one is currently suffering from elder abuse, you should remove them from their situation immediately and report the people or organisations responsible.

Even if your loved one was abused in the past, or you suspect that they were or are currently being abused, it is still necessary to take action, as the abuser or institution remains at risk of abusing others.

It is equally vital to tend to the physical and mental health of your loved one that may still be suffering from the effects of this abuse, whether this means taking them to the doctor or connecting them with a therapist to help them work through it.

Some resources that you can utilise to get support and advice about how to address elder abuse are:

Adult Social Services at your local council

Your GP or other NHS health providers

The Care Quality Commission

Domestic Abuse helpline 0808 2000 247

Hourglass helpline: 0808 808 8141

The Police - You can call the local police on the 101 non-emergency number or call 999 immediately in an emergency

Pharmacies – ask staff for ‘ANI’ and they can provide immediate help.

Call the Age UK Advice Line 0800 678 1174 if you are concerned about abuse.

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