According to the University of Southern California Center for Elder Justice, every year an estimated five million, or one in 10 older Americans experience elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. World Elder Abuse Day will be recognized globally on June 15, 2023. Locally, Lee Newcomb, LCSW-C, Adult Services Social Worker with the Talbot County Department of Social Services, will provide a brief lunchtime presentation on Elder Abuse Awareness/Prevention, followed by a brief question and answer session, on June 15 at 11:45 a.m. at the Talbot County Senior Center at Brookletts Place at 400 Brooketts Avenue in Easton, Maryland. Participants are encouraged to bring a bagged lunch.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was launched on June 15, 2006, by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. The purpose of WEAAD is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of the abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic, and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.
According to the U.S. Center for Elder Justice, elder abuse is the mistreatment or harming of an older person – including physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, along with neglect and financial exploitation. Many social factors—for example, a lack of support services and community resources—can make conditions ripe for elder abuse. According to Newcomb, financial exploitation and neglect are two of the most common forms of elder abuse. Financial exploitation includes theft, fraud, misuse or neglect of authority, and use of undue influence as a lever to gain control over an older person’s money or property. The U.S. Center for Elder Justice reports that older people throughout the United States lose an estimated $2.6 billion or more annually due to elder financial abuse and exploitation.
“Banks and caregiver agencies are the biggest reporters of financial abuse and exploitation,” Newcomb states.
She adds, “As far as neglect, some people don’t know they are facilitating abuse – like neglect. Neglect is the failure or refusal to provide for an older person’s safety and physical, or emotional needs. Because seniors often live alone, this neglect can go unreported until someone reports it.”
Common risk factors for elder abuse are often found in seniors who have dementia, mental health or substance abuse issues, are experiencing social isolation, or are in poor physical health. Emotional and behavioral signs of elder abuse can include unusual changes in behavior or sleep, fear or anxiety, being isolated or not responsive, and depression. Physical signs include broken bones, bruises, and welts; cuts, sores, or burns; untreated bed sores; torn, stained or bloody underclothing; unexplained sexually transmitted diseases; dirtiness, poor nutrition or dehydration; poor living conditions; or lack of medical aids (glasses, walker, teeth, hearing aid, medications). Signs of financial exploitation include unusual changes in bank accounts or money management, unusual or sudden changes in a will or other financial documents, fraudulent signatures on financial documents, and unpaid bills.
According to Newcomb, most elder abuse happens at home and nine out of 10 abusers are relatives. She adds, “Because many cases of elder abuse go unreported, we as citizens are encouraged to be on the lookout for warning signs of maltreatment and to report suspected abuse as soon as possible.”
Programs such as Adult Protective Services (APS) and the Long-Term Care Ombudsmen are here to help. For reporting numbers, contact Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 (www.eldercare.acl.gov).
If you or someone you know is in a life-threatening situation or immediate danger, call 911 or the local police or sheriff.
Additional ways citizens can help include helping to prevent isolation by calling or visiting older loved ones and asking how they are doing regularly or signing up to be a friendly visitor to an older person in our communities. Family members, friends, and caregivers can also reach out to Adult Services at the Talbot County Department of Social Services for tools to help care for the elderly in their care. Other resources in Talbot County include the Talbot County Senior Centers at Brookletts Place in Easton at the St. Michaels YMCA, Upper Shore Aging, Talbot County Health Department’s Senior Care Program, the Maryland Department of Aging, and the Maryland Department of Human Services.
For further resources on elder abuse, contact Lee Newcomb at the Talbot County Department of Social Services at 410-770-8741.