Roughly 10 percent of older adults have experienced some form of elder abuse or neglect—but less than one out of every 14 cases is reported to authorities.
Abuse and neglect know no boundaries and all too often go unnoticed. And we would like to thank those in our community who have come together to try and change that during Elder Abuse Awareness Month 2019.
This was the fifth straight year that the Cambridge Council on Aging and Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services put a spotlight on these issues for the month of June. Joining with other local organizations and concerned residents, we distributed 3,000 fact sheets and purple ribbons, which are the symbol of elder abuse awareness. We also hosted a great community discussion about common links between abuse, neglect, and mental health. Our thanks to everyone who helped make it happen.
But to be effective, elder abuse awareness can’t be something we only revisit once each year. Truly making a difference requires knowing elder abuse, the signs, and how to take action if there are concerns.Elder abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual, or financial. It also includes neglect and self-neglect. These issues affect elders across all income levels, cultures, gender, and races.
The most common signs of abuse or neglect are:
• Unexplained financial loss
• Unexplained bruises or injuries
• Verbal abuse or threats
• Changes in mood or behavior
• Rapid decline in health
• Sudden confusion
• Unexplained weight loss
• Neglected care needs
• Hesitation to speak openly
• Frequent unpaid or overdue bills
If you have concerns about elder abuse or neglect, call the Massachusetts Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-922-2275. All calls are confidential, and the hotline is a gateway to your local Elder Protective Services program, which works to eliminate or alleviate abuse or neglect of adults aged 60 and over.
Elder Protective Services investigates reports of abuse, working with older adults and other stakeholders to mitigate risk factors. Crisis intervention, safety planning, referrals to services, housing loss prevention and harm reduction strategies are just some of the ways they can help.
Once again, our thanks to everyone who has helped spread this message. Elder abuse is present in our community. But by working together we can make a difference.
Susan Pacheco is director of the Cambridge Council on Aging, which works to promote the health and independence of local older adults by providing meaningful social and recreational options. Norah Al-Wetaid, LICSW is a Senior Elder Protective Services Case Worker at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services, a non-profit dedicated to supporting the independence and well-being of older adults and people with disabilities.