June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month- 1 out of every 10 people over the age of 60, who live at home, report being abused.
Elder abuse can happen to anyone- you, your family, friends or neighbors. Elder Abuse is any knowing, intentional or negligent act that causes harm (or a serious risk of harm) to a vulnerable adult perpetrated by a family member, caregiver or trusted friend.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimate that 4 out of 5 cases of elder abuse go unreported. Consider four of your friends- statistically, only 1 of you will be free from harm. Being safe is an important part of aging independently. If you, or someone you know is in immediate danger call 911!
It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor. Elder abuse happens in all cultures and races. It can happen in your home or in a facility. The abuser may be a friend, family member or someone who is a professional caregiver.
Seniors don’t seek help for all of the same reasons as younger abuse victims- fear, shame, isolation, and lack of resources. A Seniors experience of abuse may be made worse by overall poor health, cognitive impairment or mobility limitations.
Some of the risk factors for Elder abuse include:
- A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia
- History of mental illness or substance abuse by the victim or abuser or both
- Social isolation
- Poor physical health
If you think a Senior is not safe, Rhode Island law requires you to report your suspicions.
Types of Elder Abuse
Financial Exploitation is the legal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit. Some examples of financial abuse may be taking the elders money, jewelry, car or home for the abusers own use. This is the MOST COMMON type of abuse.
Physical Abuse is the causing physical pain or injury to an elder, or restraining an elder. Examples include hitting, pinching, shoving, tying someone down, locking someone in a room, giving an elder too much medication on purpose.
Neglect & Abandonment is deserting or failing to provide care, food, shelter, health care, or protection for an elder. Indications of neglect may be lack of basic hygiene, not enough food or medication, a person with dementia being left alone, withholding medical care, or assistive devices such as a cane, walker, hearing aid.
Emotional Abuse is the inflicting mental pain, or distress on an elder through verbal or non verbal acts. Emotional abuse can include intimidation, verbal insults, instilling fear of retaliation or withholding attention from other family members such as children or grandchildren.
Sexual Abuse is sexual contact of any kind without an elders permission.
Self-Neglect is an inability to understand the consequences of one’s own actions or inaction, which leads (or could lead) to harm or endangerment. Self-neglect may be evident when an Elder is refusing needed health care, refusing to maintain a safe home or is hoarding.
The Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs Adult Protective Services Unit is responsible for investigating complaints of abuse of Rhode Islanders 60 years of age and older by a family member, caregiver, or person with a duty to care for the elder.
Department of Elderly Affairs
401-462-0555 or 401-462-3000
Under Rhode Island law, every city and town has a Senior Citizen Police Advocate. These are men and women on the police force who have received special training in working with Seniors. You can call the non emergency number of your local police station and ask to speak with the Senior Citizen Police Advocate.
Scituate Senior Citizen Police Advocate
Patrolman Richard Parente
401-821-5900 or email@example.com
If you suspect a resident of a nursing home or assisted living facility may be being abused contact the Rhode Island Department of Health, Rhode Island Attorney General and the Rhode Island Long Term Care Ombudsman.
Department of Health Facilities Regulation
RI Attorney General Patient Abuse or Neglect, Medicaid Fraud & Drug Diversion Unit
401-222-2566 or 401-274-4400 x2269
RI Long Term Care Ombudsman
Deborah Burton is very passionate about raising awareness of Elder Abuse and ways to prevent it. Deborah is the owner of Senior’s Choice Consulting in North Scituate. She can be reached at 401-585-0509, or by email at DeborahLBurtonMS@gmail.com or www.SeniorsChoiceConsulting.com