By Kelly Griese
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Americans understandably have a lot of anxiety right now. And, as always, we worry about our most vulnerable citizens.
In a few weeks, our office joins countless others in recognizing World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on June 15. It also marks the start of the second annual Indiana Elder Abuse Awareness Week and the first anniversary of the creation of the Indiana Council Against Senior Exploitation, or IN-CASE, where I serve as chairwoman.
The widespread prevalence of senior exploitation and abuse destroys the security of millions of older Americans annually. At IN-CASE, it is our mission to empower Indiana communities to prevent and end senior exploitation and abuse. We believe we can achieve this through education, encouragement, and empowerment.
IN-CASE is comprised of dozens of organizations and individuals across the state of Indiana, and we’re working together right now to finalize a series of virtual events during Indiana Elder Abuse Awareness Week. We had hoped to meet with all of you in person to celebrate our anniversary, but social distancing remains necessary right now, so we’re doing our best to support seniors and their caregivers from afar. In the meantime, we want to provide you with some quick facts about elder abuse.
- Elder Abuse can happen to anyone, affecting both men and women, all cultures, races, and socio-economic groups.
- Elder abuse can happen anywhere; in a person’s own home, in hospitals and nursing homes, in assisted living facilities, and other institutional settings.
- Women and “older” elders (80 years old and older) are the most common victims of elder abuse. Learn more.
- Elder abuse is most often perpetrated by the victim’s own family members. 90% of abusers are family members; most often adult children, spouses/partners, and others. Learn more.
- Elder abuse is largely unreported. The National Center on Elder Abuse suggests that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse is actually reported to the authorities. Learn more.
Clearly, elder abuse is a big problem, but there are ways you can help.
Start by getting to know IN-CASE. I encourage you to explore www.IN-CASE.org and follow our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. In the next week, we’ll post event announcements and RSVP information for Indiana Elder Abuse Awareness Week. Some of the events we're finalizing include a tele-town hall with AARP, scam prevention BINGO via Zoom, and fitness and cooking demonstrations tailored to senior citizens.
You can also help by simply paying attention to the seniors in your life. Here are some of the red flags of elder abuse.
- Sudden changes in appearance: poor hygiene, dressed improperly for the weather, sunken eyes, bedsores, loss of weight.
- Sudden changes in personality; increased or unreasonable levels of anxiety, fearfulness and/or depression.
- The elder becomes uncommunicative and unresponsive.
- Sudden or swift decline in the health; malnourishment or sudden loss of weight.
- Visible injury that has not been cared for, or cannot be explained with a realistic explanation.
- A change in routine, no longer attending events or participating in events enjoyed in the past.
- Social isolation/ not allowed to visit alone.
- Sudden loss of ability to meet financial obligations.
- Going without things the elder needs or has always had in the past.
- The elder states that they have had conflicts or problems with their caregiver and/or they use coded disclosures.
Many of these red flags can be harder to observe right now, but social distancing is not the same as social isolation. There are plenty of ways to stay connected even while physically apart. Take full advangage of digital tools like FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, and more. These video conferencing options allow you to see your loved ones and their homes.
If you’re wondering how to get everyone online for a video chat, here are some helpful tips:
- Work with what they already know. Is your loved one already on Facebook Messenger? Do they use an iPhone? These are programs that already have video chat features. You’re looking for the most user-friendly program that works with the device your loved one already has.
- Give the seniors clear instructions on how to connect to the program you pick. You may need to describe what app icons look like, how to download software, or steps for creating a new account.
- Be patient and encouraging.
For more information about video chatting with seniors, I found this blog post from Crossroads Hospice to be helpful.
The MoneyWise Matters blog has a wealth of information about managing money and avoiding fraud. You can look through the complete archive here.