Elder abuse and neglect is a widespread problem that is often overlooked. If you suspect elder abuse and neglect, then do what you can to stop it and prevent it in the future. If you are an elder being abused or neglected, then tell someone. You can tell a doctor, friend, or family member that you trust. You can also call the Eldercare Locator helpline at 1-800-677-1116. If you see an elder being abused or neglected, then report the situation immediately. Do not assume that someone else will take care of it or that the elder can take care of him/herself. Often, the first agency to respond to reports of elder abuse is the Adult Protective Services (APS). APS investigates abuse cases, intervenes, and offers its services and advice. Many seniors do not report the abuse because they fear retaliation from their abusers or that no one else will take care of them. If the caregiver is the elder’s child, then the elder may feel ashamed at his/her child’s behavior or blame him/herself for the child’s behavior. The elder may just not want his/her child to get into trouble with the law.
Here are some tips to help you report cases of elder abuse effectively:
- Be specific as possible. You don’t need hard evidence but provide as many specific details as you can to describe the abuse.
- Remember that the elder can refuse help. An elder may feel that having an abusive caretaker is better than having no caretaker or being forced to move out of his/her home. In these situations, you can try to stay in contact with the elder and encourage the elder to consider alternative solutions.
- Keep your eyes and ears open. If you see future incidents of abuse, continue to report these. The more information that you can provide will give the elder a better chance of receiving the care he/she needs.
You can prevent elder abuse and neglect by listening to the seniors and caregivers, intervening when you suspect elder abuse, and educating others about how to recognize and report elder abuse. If you are a caregiver, you may be feeling overwhelmed by the demands of caring for an elder. If you are feeling this way, then request help from friends, relatives, or other care agencies so you can take a break. Stay healthy and take care of yourself, especially by adopting stress-relieving practices. If you’re feeling depressed, seek counseling or find a support group. Elder abuse helplines can also help caregivers who are getting burnt out. If you are a concerned friend or family member, then report elder abuse whenever you suspect it. Watch the elder’s finances for any unauthorized transactions and look over the elder’s medications. Call and visit as often as you can to give the caregiver a break and to become the elder’s confidante. If you are an elder, then make sure your financial and legal affairs are in order. Keep in touch with your family and friends so that you are not isolated. Also, if you’re unhappy with the care you’re receiving, then speak up and tell someone. Not everyone may be able to help an elder personally. In that situation, you can volunteer or donate money to the cause of educating people about elder abuse. You can also lobby to strengthen laws and policing so that elder abuse can be investigated and prosecuted more readily.