Lewiston:  SeniorsPlus, Western Maine’s Agency on Aging is among the many organizations in the United States and other countries acknowledging June as Elder Abuse Awareness Month.  (With June 15 highlighted as Elder Abuse Awareness Day.) The goal is to bring attention to the issue of seniors being abused, neglected, and exploited, often by people they trust the most. Abusers may be spouses, family members, personal acquaintances, professionals in positions of trust, or opportunistic strangers who prey on the vulnerable.

 

“June’s designation builds awareness of the on-going fight against elder abuse,” said Betsy Sawyer-Manter, Executive Director of SeniorsPlus.  “In addition, we hope potential victims will learn about community partners who can offer protection and other resources.”

 

Research indicates that more than one in ten elders may experience some type of abuse, but only one in 23 cases is reported. This means that very few seniors who have been abused get the help they need.  Part of today’s goal is to build awareness so that these compromised individuals may get the help they need.

 

SeniorsPlus offers programs throughout the year designed to help reduce the elder abuse – which includes financial abuse.  Visit www.seniorsplus.orgfor a list of related community events. For assistance with suspected forms of abuse, call 911 or contact Adult Protective Services at 1-800-624-8404and at www.maine.gov/dhhs/oads/aging/aps/.  For investment-related questions or concerns, the Office of Securities within the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation can be reached at 1-877-624-8551 and at www.investors.maine.gov.

 

What Is Elder Abuse?

PHYSICAL ABUSE:  Use of force to threaten or physically injure an elder

EMOTIONAL ABUSE:  Verbal attacks, threats, rejection, isolation, or belittling acts that cause or could cause mental anguish, pain, or distress to a senior

SEXUAL ABUSE:  Sexual contact that is forced, tricked, threatened, or otherwise coerced upon an elder, including anyone who is unable to grant consent

EXPLOITATION:  Theft, fraud, misuse or neglect of authority, and use of undue influence as a lever to gain control over an older person’s money or property

NEGLECT:  A caregiver’s failure or refusal to provide for a vulnerable elder’s safety, physical, or emotional needs

ABANDONMENT:  Desertion of a frail or vulnerable elder by anyone with a duty of care

SELF-NEGLECT:  An inability to understand the consequences of one’s own actions or inaction, which leads to, or may lead to, harm or endangerment — you do not need to prove that abuse is occurring; it is up to the professionals to investigate the suspicions.

 

What Can I Do to Prevent Elder Abuse?

  1.  REPORT SUSPECTED MISTREATMENT:  Contact your local authorities.  Although a situation may have already been investigated, if you believe circumstances are getting worse, continue to speak out.
  2. KEEP IN CONTACT:  Talk with your older friends, neighbors, and relatives. Maintaining communication will help decrease isolation, a risk factor for mistreatment. It will also give them a chance to talk about any problems they may be experiencing.
  3. BE AWARE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF ABUSE:  Look around and take note of what may be happening with your older neighbors and acquaintances. Do they seem lately to be withdrawn, nervous, fearful, sad, or anxious, especially around certain people, when they have not seemed so in the past?
  4. CONTACT YOUR LOCAL AREA AGENCY ON AGING:  SeniorsPlus, the Western Maine Agency on Aging can provide information on local programs and sources of support, including Meals on Wheels. These programs help elders to maintain health, well-being, and independence – a good defense against abuse.
  5. VOLUNTEER:  Take advantage of opportunities in your area to become involved in programs that provide assistance and support for seniors.

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