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Wed, Jun 15, 2016 at 12:00 AM

12 Things you can do to help prevent elder abuse

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

The prevalence of elder abuse is as much as 10%, including physical abuse, psychological or verbal abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, and neglect. Below are twelve things that anyone can do to help prevent elder abuse.

1. Learn the signs of elder abuse and neglect.

Some of these signs include:

  • Bruises, abrasions, burns and broken bones
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, sudden change in alertness, unusual depression
  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse
  • Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse
  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person

2. Call or visit an elderly loved one and ask how they are doing.

3. Provide a respite break for a caregiver.

4. Ask your bank manager to train tellers on how to detect elder financial abuse.

Some of the signs of financial abuse include:

  • Unpaid bills, eviction notices, or notices to discontinue utilities
  • Withdrawals from bank accounts or transfers between accounts that the older person cannot explain
  • Bank statements and canceled checks no longer come to the elder's home
  • New "best friends"
  • Legal documents, such as powers of attorney, which the older person didn't understand at the time he or she signed them
  • Unusual activity in the older person's bank accounts including large, unexplained withdrawals, frequent transfers between accounts, or ATM withdrawals
  • The care of the elder is not commensurate with the size of his/her estate
  • A caregiver expresses excessive interest in the amount of money being spent on the older person
  • Belongings or property are missing
  • Suspicious signatures on checks or other documents
  • Absence of documentation about financial arrangements
  • Implausible explanations given about the elderly person's finances by the elder or the caregiver
  • The elder is unaware of or does not understand financial arrangements that have been made for him or her

5. Ask your doctor to ask you and all other senior patients about possible family violence in their lives.

6. Contact your local Adult Protective Services or Long Term Care Ombudsman to learn how to support their work.

The number for Marshall County's Adult Services is (256) 582-7160.

7. Organize a "Respect Your Elders" essay contest at your child's school.

8. Ask your religious congregation's leader to give a talk about elder abuse or put a message in the bulletin.

9. Volunteer to be a visitor at a nursing home or to a homebound senior.

10. Send a letter to your local paper, radio or TV station asking that they cover World Elder Abuse Day or Grandparents Day in September.

11. Dedicate your marathon or other event to elder mistreatment awareness and prevention.

12. Join the Ageless Alliance.

The Ageless Alliance connects people of all ages, nationwide, who stand for the dignity of older adults. Visit the website here.

To report suspected Elder Abuse, contact DHR at 256-582-7100 and follow prompts to INTAKE (select language preference, then 2 to make a child or elderly abuse report).

GAP is accepting volunteers to assist our vulnerable elderly and disabled who have no one else willing or able to assist. For more information, or to have someone come speak to your group, organization, or church about how you can STAND IN THE GAP, please contact Barbara Thompson at 256-388-9851.

Our Vision: To provide world-class healthcare with a personal touch.