Elder Abuse Is A Growing Problem Across Globe

On Saturday we once again celebrated World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Elder Abuse is a growing problem as our world population is getting older and as families have become more spread out geographically.

No longer does grandma or grandpa live in the same neighborhood with children and grandchildren. They may not even be in the same county. The mobility of families in our society means that older adults are increasingly isolated from close family who can watch over and help prevent abuse, neglect and financial exploitation from occurring.

Moving closer to our parents or having them move closer to us is not always an option. Moreover, sadly, studies show that approximately 90% of those committing elder abuse are family or other trusted individuals. So what can be done to prevent abuse of our older loved ones? Elder Abuse (EA) takes many forms. Typically when people think about abuse they think of physical, mental or sexual abuse. However, abuse of the elderly can be neglecting to provide care for an older person with health problems or it can even be the older person failing to care for themselves. This is called“self neglect.” The most common and growing form of Elder Abuse is financial exploitation, which can rob an older adult of their lifetime’s hard-earned savings. Elder Abuse does not discriminate and it affects people in all socio-economic groups.

What we do know is that there are risk factors that make people more susceptible to abuse. Some common risk factors include dementia, mental health, social isolation, poor health or substance abuse either on the part of the older person or the perpetrator. It is difficult to quantify how prevalent elder abuse is in our society. One study suggests that 1 in 10 people will experience some type of elder abuse but the problem is grossly under reported due to embarrassment, fear of loss of independence, or because the perpetrator is a friend or family member. Caring about Elder Abuse is about caring for justice for all people and we all have a role to play in preventing abuse. In the last few years many community partners have come together in Chautauqua County to take significant steps to prevent and combat elder abuse. This has been accomplished through the creation of a Council on Elder Abuse and a multi-disciplinary team that meets monthly to discuss difficult EA cases and work collaboratively across agencies to stop abuse and ensure prosecution.

One partner, the Center for Elder Law and Justice, received a grant from the Administration for Community Living to create the Elder Advocacy Program, which educates community stakeholders and the public about elder abuse, provides free civil legal representation to survivors, and works with allied professionals to ensure that all of the legal and non-legal needs of survivors are being met.

The EAP also assists with accessibility accommodations for the courtroom, including the ability to remotely file petitions for orders of protection in family court. As World Elder Abuse Awareness Day approaches think about the ways you can help our community prevent elder abuse. Check on older friends, neighbors and family who may be homebound or isolated. Become a volunteer to call or visit with an older person.

Give older people a safe space to talk about abuse and tell their stories. Suspected abuse can be reported to Chautauqua County Adult Protective Services at 753-4447. They will investigate to see if the situation rises to the level of abuse and then get the appropriate authorities involved if needed. Help raise awareness about scams by talking with friends and family about the attempts made against you and assist older adults to install protection to block unwanted calls on all their phones. Join the Chautauqua County Council on Elder Abuse and help us spread the message that Elder Abuse is not to be tolerated.

As always if you have questions about programs or services in Chautauqua County for older adults or need more information abut anything mentioned in this article call the Chautauqua County NY Connects helpline at 753-4582, 363-4582 or 661-7582.

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