Even though National Elder Abuse Awareness Day, June 15th, has passed, there is no need to put prevailing trends on the back burner. It takes knowledge and a good heart to help prevent crime of this nature. Elder abuse has been on the rise in many communities. In local communities across the country, Federal government agencies are teaming up with law enforcement and nonprofits to combat this growing trend. Just last year, the Federal government passed the Elder Justice Act that coordinates federal elder abuse detection and prevention programs within the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Unfortunately, it is estimated that millions of U.S. elders, from all walks of life, face abuse and neglect every year. Anyone can be victimized. However, there are things you can do to help protect yourself from abuse and neglect. “Family members are typically the abusers and are often the adult children or spouse of the victim”, said Mary Twomey, co-director of the National Center of Elder Abuse. There are many things that one can consider to assist in the prevention of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
State legislatures in all 50 states have passed some form of legislation in regards to elder abuse and adult protective services. Passed legislation that authorizes the state to protect and provide services to vulnerable, incapacitated, or disabled adults. In more than three-quarters of the states, the services are provided through the state social service department known as a Adult Protective Services. In the remaining states, the State Units on Aging have the major responsibility. Many signs can predict that elder abuse is taking place.
Some elder abuse signs to consider are:
- Lack of basic hygiene, adequate food, or clean and appropriate clothing
- Lack of medical aids (glasses, walker, teeth, hearing aid, and medications)
- Person with dementia left unsupervised
- Person confined to bed is left without care
- Unexplained or uncharacteristic changes in behavior, such as withdrawal from normal activities, unexplained changes in alertness, other
- Home without adequate facilities (stove, refrigerator, heat, cooling, working plumbing, and electricity)
Some of the organizations, programs, and agencies that pursue prevention tactics are well known throughout the United States. Here are a few organizations that provide resourceful information:
- The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) serves as a national resource center anything related to elder abuse, and additional prevention tips can be found via the NCEA.
- The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program advocates for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes, assisted living facilities and similar adult care facilities. The Ombudsman Program is established in all states under the Older Americans Act, which is administered by the Administration on Aging, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- The Alzheimer's Association is a great source to connect with local chapters and community resources.
- The Foundation Aiding the Elderly (F.A.T.E.) a California non-profit organization seeks to serve as a voice for patients, bring about national reforms, and enforce the laws governing the nursing home industry and its regulatory agencies in order to assure proper care for the elderly in long-term care facilities.
- The National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA) exists to support family caregivers and to speak out publicly for caregivers' needs.
- The National Organization For Empowering Caregivers (NOFEC) is a non-profit New York-based organization whose stated mission is to provide assistance, education, support, and referrals for informal family caregivers, as well to promote public awareness about the realities of care giving.
The fact remains that when insufficient resources are provided, corners are cut and elders suffer. The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) encourages agencies, organizations, and individuals across the world to recognize this underreported issue and raise awareness about the mistreatment of seniors. Let this be a renewal of a life-long commitment to ending elder abuse in the United States. For further information and prevention tips on this crime please contact the NCPC@ncpc.org.