June 15, 2011 marked the 6th annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. This day was launched by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations.
The intent of this day is to bring awareness to an ever increasing problem: the prevalence of elder abuse throughout the world. The fact that we need this day is proof positive that elder abuse is a real problem and is on the rise. The National Center on Elder Abuse has defined elder abuse as the “intentional or neglectful acts by a caregiver or ‘trusted’ individual that lead to, or may lead to, harm of a vulnerable elder. Physical abuse; neglect; emotional or psychological abuse; verbal abuse and threats; financial abuse and exploitation; sexual abuse; and abandonment are considered forms of elder abuse.”
The Senate Special Committee on Aging estimates that there may be as many as 5 million victims of elder abuse every year.
These statistics are staggering but when you think that it could be your friend or loved one experiencing this type of abuse, the statistics really hit home.
Elder abuse often occurs within a nursing home setting where caregivers are entrusted with your loved ones health and well-being. Often, elder abuse goes unreported because either the individual suffering the abuse is afraid to report the crimes committed against them due to being threatened by the abuser or the individual being abused is unable to speak for themselves due to a cognitive deficit. World Elder Abuse Day is a wonderful mechanism for getting the word out that everyone should be aware of the possibility of elder abuse and should take steps to prevent it or report it. However, this commitment is not limited to one day. We must continue to raise awareness that the elderly population is at risk for mistreatment. If you suspect elder abuse, report it. The National Center for Elder Abuse has a listing, by state, of the appropriate contact numbers in order to report abuse. See: http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/NCEAroot/Main_Site/Find_Help/State_Resources.aspx. We cannot allow elder abuse to continue without punishment for the individuals and institutions inflicting these harms on vulnerable individuals.