Elder abuse awareness month all year every year should be a goal of all of us. June is the month designated as World Elder Abuse Awareness and June 15th is the specific day set aside to recognize that elder abuse is an issue in our society. And not just here in the United States but also, globally.

Raising awareness is important because as our population continues to age communities across the country will be faced with the possibility of more instances of such abuse. Why should this topic be important to people of all ages?

Why should you care?

Well, consider this: if we continue to age we will also one day be considered elderly. Sadly for many that means entering a phase of life when one may be ill or weak. Age or accident could lead to physical and/or mental decline leaving you even more vulnerable.

Honestly it breaks my heart to think there are people who would knowingly and willingly prey on elders. My personal opinion is that those people should… what is the phrase… “rot in hell…?”

Is that too harsh? No… I don’t think so. But, putting personal feelings aside there are legal consequences for those found to have targeted elders for abuse. All of us must work together to make sure to identify the bad apples.

The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reports that all 50 states currently have laws dealing with elder abuse.

What is considered elder abuse?

Research indicates it can come in many forms

Thinking about these various ways our elders can be taken advantage of or harmed reminds me of my first interactions with in-home care providers. Will you indulge me a short story?

When I first realized and accepted that my mother would need a bit of extra help in her home we decided it was time to tap into our Long Term Care insurance policy and hire a care agency. The plan was to have someone with my mother for three days a week; a few hours a day.

That person would be on-hand to help with meal-prep, light housework or making sure my mother didn’t have a slip or fall while bathing. In some cases, the aide would also be available for short trips to the grocery store, shopping or pharmacy.

During one of the first interviews I told the prospective aid that I wanted she and my mother to establish their own relationship.

I said I would be involved for logistics but I would be as “hands-off” as possible. But my comments then took a serious turn and here’s basically what I told her:

“You hurt my mother in any way… or something is missing from her home… or my mother tells me she feels you have been harsh with her… or I discover ANYTHING out of place… I will hunt you down and kill you.”

Seriously – I recall sitting at my mother’s kitchen table and saying those words. With a deadly straight face.

The woman’s eyes grew as large as saucers. I think I scared her a little bit.

Then I chuckled and said, “No…I’m just kidding. I wouldn’t do that!”

She laughed… we laughed… and the tension broke.

But then… in a serious tone of voice and with a straight face, I told her, “But seriously… if you do ANYTHING that indicates to me you are hurting my mother… I’ll kill you.”

Now… that may be an extreme case and perhaps I should not share something like that in print. But here’s why I was that harsh in the initial interview.

I wanted whomever might be in my mother’s home and in her space and placed in charge of her well-being (even for a few hours) to know that I was my mother’s advocate. That I would be her protector. I was her guardian.

And just like in movies in which the super-hero swoops down to save the day, my goal was to make sure ANY in-home caregiver knew I WOULD NOT tolerate ANY kind of harm (physical, verbal, emotional, financial) coming to my mother.

This type of abuse happens

And it happens more than what you might think. NCEA reports that one in 10 elders are impacted by abuse. It happens in homes and it also happens in institutions (skilled nursing facilities and/or assisted living locations).

And in the arena of guardianship abuse? Research indicates we may not even have a true overview of the extent of that problem!

Adult protective services and law enforcement agencies traditionally work together to respond to reports of abuse. Many local police and sheriff’s departments have team members who concentrate their efforts within this segment of crime-fighting.

And at the state level, the office of your state Attorney General often has information regarding how to report such abuse.

For instance, the office of the California State Attorney General has numerous resource guides to provide information and education to the public. Some of which are signs to be aware of; things to watch out for such as:

  • Uncombed or matted hair
  • Unkept or dirty appearance
  • Untreated medical conditions
  • Withdrawn attitude
  • Abnormal confusion or forgetfulness and more…

So why not work to have elder abuse awareness month every month of the year? Let’s all make sure to spread this information to as many people as possible. What signs to watch out for. Who to call if you suspect abuse? What steps to take to keep our elders safe.

One day WE will be those elders.