Maine’s elderly are vulnerable victims
Elder abuse and exploitation are on the rise. We have to look around and speak up when we see abuse.

By Sarah Peterson
Guest columnist

Maine is one of the “oldest” states in the nation, with a high percentage of residents over the age of 65, and projections for this number to increase significantly over the coming years. With such a mature population, it is especially important that the problem of elder abuse be brought to light so that our community will be able to recognize the signs of abuse to stop it in its tracks. Education and awareness are also important so that we can achieve elder abuse prevention whenever possible. 
June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and, on behalf of the Lewiston/Auburn Elder Abuse Task Force, I would like to share some information regarding elder abuse as it affects Maine and the nation, and some of the work being done around the state to combat elder abuse.
According to the best available estimates, between 1 and 2 million Americans age 65 or older have been injured, exploited, or otherwise mistreated by someone on whom they depended for protection. The National Center on Elder Abuse & The American Public Human Services Association estimates that for every one case of elder abuse, neglect, exploitation or self-neglect reported to the authorities, about five more go unreported.
In Maine, reports of elder abuse and exploitation have increased significantly over the past year. Maine Adult Protective Services saw an increase of 12 percent in referrals from 2007 to 2008. Legal Services for the Elderly saw an increase of 17 percent in cases of elder abuse and exploitation from 2007 to 2008.  
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, elder abuse refers to intentional or negligent acts by a caregiver or “trusted” individual that causes (or potentially causes) harm to a vulnerable elder. Elder abuse can happen to anyone — a loved one, a neighbor … anyone. Elder abuse affects seniors across all socio-economic groups, cultures, and races. It can occur anywhere: in a person’s own home; in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other institutional settings; and even in hospitals. Based on available information, women and those over the age of 80 are more likely to be victimized, and mistreatment is most often perpetrated by the victim’s own family members.
Professionals and concerned citizens in Maine are working together in task forces and Triads around the state in hopes of minimizing the affects of elder abuse on Maine seniors. In Androscoggin County, the Lewiston/Auburn Elder Abuse Task Force meets monthly and has instituted a number of community education events.
For more information, go to: www.laelderabusetaskforce.blogspot.com.
If you have concerns, ask for help for yourself or someone you know.

Sarah Peterson is a staff attorney with Legal Services for the Elderly based in Augusta.


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