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Highlights & Next Steps: 6th Annual World Elder Abuse Day

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 05 July 2011

On June 15th, people around the world wore purple, demonstrating a strong solidarity for ending elder abuse and neglect in homes, senior care facilities, workplaces, communities, and families.

This year, the official WEAAD (World Elder Abuse Awareness Day) international event was held in London, England. Sponsored by INPEA (the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse), attendees & participants in WEAAD 2011 gathered around a theme of My World…Your World…Our World – Free of Elder Abuse.

Stateside, a number of individuals, organizations, and government agencies hosted their own events:

  • AARP International – This meeting focused specifically on the sexual abuse of older women and a human rights approach to combating this sinister problem.
  • NCEA (National Center on Elder Abuse) – Part of the Administration on Aging, NCEA invited citizens across the country to join them in the fight against elder abuse. Their campaign site offered toolkits and other resources for individuals, businesses and community groups to develop their own advocacy & awareness events around this crucial issue.
  • The White House – In an official statement titled Taking a Stand against Elder Abuse, Kathy Greenlee – Assistant Secretary for Aging at the Department of Health and Human Services – reminded readers of the Elder Justice Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2010. The legislation “provides the first-ever authorization of federal resources for adult protective services demonstrations to test the best methods of identifying, responding to, and preventing elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.”

 

Elder abuse is not just about senior scams or bedsores. Yes – countless numbers of elders are cheated out of money and other resources each year by “ne’er do wells” looking to make an easy buck (and unfortunately sometimes, they are family members).  True – there are far too many elders who suffer neglect in nursing homes and care facilities in our country and elsewhere. And it’s absolutely inexcusable and disturbing.

But elder abuse is much more complex and comprises more levels than financial and physical abuse alone. Financial abuse takes on many forms: some elders are manipulated, exploited, and forced by others to do things with their money that they would rather not do. Physical abuse is multifaceted too: AARP International’s WEAAD event covered the abhorrent subject of sexual abuse among older women. Mickey Rooney shared his heartbreaking personal story of elder abuse on a number of levels, and at the hands of his own family members. Many fear moving into a nursing home because of rampant abuse; a study we reported on in June 2010 said a shocking 1 in 3 nursing homes have documented instances of abuse. Elder abuse is on the rise, and it’s not just because there are more people who are over 65.

So many adult children and other relatives or friends are taking on the role of Power of Attorney/Guardian for elders these days, which can further complicate care situations and lead to various forms of elder abuse, particularly emotional/mental.

Caregiver burnout is also a contributing factor leading to elder abuse, even if the caregiver has the purest of motives and best of intentions.

We all need to be aware of elder abuse: in our own circles of influence, we need to know how to look for warning signs, know how to report abuse appropriately and promptly, and know how to help those in crisis. It goes beyond wearing purple one day a year.

What next steps will you take to end elder abuse & neglect?

-Michelle Seitzer

 

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