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June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Many people are not aware of a silent epidemic that affects millions of people annually, and that is elder abuse. In order to raise awareness of this frightening epidemic the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

It is estimated that every year around five million elders are subjected to abuse. The abuse can take many forms such as being neglected or even exploited, usually financially, by someone else. Current estimations indicate that well over $2.5 billion are swindled from elders annually. These are funds that can very well mean the difference between getting proper and adequate medical care and proper nutrition. Due to the affected demographics being higher age and usually debilitating health conditions, in some instances this can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Everyone can take simple steps to stop elder abuse from happening to a loved one or an elder in the community. When it comes to elders, it is important to make a concerted effort to keep in touch with the elderly in the community. It helps to let them know that if they ever need it, they have someone that will listen to them.

Also, informing physicians that it would be a good idea if they would take the prerogative to inquire from their senior patients when an opportunity presents itself if they are experiencing any violence or abuse from their family members or caretakers.

Finally, one of the more helpful actions that can alleviate potential caretaker abuse is to help any caretaker charged with looking after an elder whenever possible by taking a load off their hands. This will in turn alleviate the stress associated with taking care of the elderly and help prevent that person from losing it and taking it out on the elderly or infirm for which they are caring. Those who have a loved one in a nursing home should pay close attention to signs of abuse such as bedsores, sudden weight changes and bruises.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "World Elder Abuse Awareness Day," ACL accessed June 15, 2015

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