Elder Abuse Awareness: What you need to know.
Updated: Jun 5, 2019
June 15th marks World Elder Abuse Awareness day. According to the National Institute on Justice, 1 in 10 people over the age 60 are victims of elder abuse. Over the past few years, Sojourner has seen a rise in the service needs and recognition of elder abuse victims. About 14 percent of Sojourner’s clients last year were over the age of 60 and our oldest client was 96 years old. Elders face unique challenges to reporting abuse and receiving support, which is why we have recently launched a focused effort to provide community education specifically about this topic. In May, we held a collaborative training with Minnesota Elder Justice Center for our volunteers. We are also sending presenters directly into elder care facilities and community centers.
The percentage of the U.S. population over 60 is growing quickly and it’s important that service providers are aware and equipped to work in this reality. It’s also important for both seniors themselves, as well as those who are caring for them, to know about the issue. People who qualify as seniors have a large range of mobility and cognitive capacities and thus their needs vary. However, some common warning signs of elder abuse include*:
Physical: Repeated “accidental” injuries, weight loss and malnutrition, poor hygiene, signs of restraint, pain or bleeding in the genital area and being over/under medicated.
Behavioral: Strained relationship between caregiver and elder, withdrawal from normal activities, unusual depression, changes in alertness, hinting at being fearful in the presence of a particular person, isolation and loss of access to spiritual or cultural traditions.
Financial: Abrupt money transfer, changes to Power of Attorney or will, unpaid bills when there should be funds available and valuable items removed from the elder’s home.
Elders may also face unique barriers to reporting, particularly because the abuse may be coming from their family member. So, what can we do?*
Have conversations! Discuss the issue of elder abuse and share the reality of it's frequency.
Educate family members, friends or neighbors. There are solutions and resources available.
If you are concerned that someone you love is being abused, address the issue and recognize that there may be a sense of shame or embarrassment. They may also have concerns about maintaining their autonomy. Respect this and do what you can to support them in their goal. Acknowledge the desire to protect relatives and address depression and/or grief by referring them to appropriate professionals if necessary.
Report your concerns to the Minnesota Adult Reporting Center (844-880-1574).
Sojourner works with victims of elder abuse within the community and is able to provide referrals, legal advocacy, information on options and safety planning. As always, services are free and confidential. To speak with a community advocate or refer someone during business hours, contact our Community Main Line at 952-935-1004. For our 24-hour Crisis Line and Shelter services, contact 952-933-7422.