Understanding abuse and neglect of older people

Thursday, June 15th, was the 11th annual commemoration of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.  Historic City News participated in a local volunteer effort to distribute information to help readers better identify crimes against a growing population of our most vulnerable residents.

Experts estimate that for every reported case of elder abuse or exploitation, twenty-three cases go unreported.  We can do something to improve that statistic and push for better enforcement of our laws designed to protect senior citizens in Florida and punish their abusers.

“Each day we see the unfortunate truth that, for seniors, living longer doesn’t mean they are living better,” said Dr. Elizabeth Podnieks, Founder of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.  “Aging causes declines in physical and cognitive abilities which makes seniors more vulnerable to becoming victims.”

For those affected with some form of dementia, one half will become victims.  The most terrible reality is that 90% of those perpetrating the abuse are family members.

  • Know It.
    Take a moment and educate yourself on the types of elder abuse.
  • See It.
    Recognize what elder abuse looks like and see the red flags, identify the warning signs.
  • Do Something About It.
    Help save a victim from further abuse by reporting what you have seen to the appropriate state agency. You can do this anonymously.

If you believe someone is being financially exploited, even if the abuser is in a position of authority, such as Power of Attorney or Guardian, get involved and stop the abuse.  There are civil actions which can be taken against persons financially exploiting the elderly; or other vulnerable individuals like persons with disabilities.

Everyone can protect the seniors they love from abuse.  No act is too small.  Just begin by educating yourself that there are several types of abuse; then, become familiar with the warning signs, and report what you observe by calling the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873) or complete an abuse report form online.

Additional information is available at the Florida Department of Elder Affairs website.