June is elder abuse awareness month. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), states that June 15th is the big day, but the full month of June is dedicated to elder abuse awareness, so spread the word. The National Center on Elder Abuse is directed by the by the U.S. Administration on Aging, which is "committed to helping national, state, and local partners in the field be fully prepared to ensure that older Americans will live with dignity, integrity, independence, and without abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The NCEA is a resource for policy makers, social service and health care practitioners, the justice system, researchers, advocates, and families."
I liked many things about the NCEA site, but the State Directory of Help Lines, Hotlines, and Elder Abuse Prevention Resources, is an excellent starting point for elder abuse education. The site points out that if someone is in immediate danger, call 911, or the local police, for immediate help. You may also contact the Eldercare Locator on weekdays for state specific information at: (800) 677-1116. Please check out this valuable resource.
Other elder abuse awareness articles that may interest you are As Care Options for Elders Multiply, Problems Need to be Addressed, Elder Abuse in Ethnic Minorities, People with Alzheimer’s Can Be Reliable Witnesses to Crime and Help Vulnerable Elders by Getting Educated and Involved.
Elder abuse comes in many forms
Physical abuse is what most people first think about when abuse is mentioned, and physical abuse is definitely an ugly problem. However, verbal, emotional and financial abuse are appalling. When elders are treated as a stone around the neck of an otherwise healthy family, and/or the elders’ money is not used to give them the best care possible in an attempt to "protect" their inheritance, that is abuse. Name calling, lack of respect, withholding medications or food - all of these are issues that most of us struggle to comprehend. However, it’s happening - maybe in your neighborhood.
Raising awareness is important because people are more apt to remember to watch for abuse and report it if they hear about it often enough. Of course, not all reported incidences are abuse. There are people with dementia who are so paranoid that they think they are being robbed, starved, or threatened by their families. Therefore, if you are a neighbor, try not to jump to conclusions. However, if you witness true abuse, or even suspect it and don’t feel it’s safe to wait, call authorities.
If you are just confused because these nice people next door seem to be tenderly caring for Grandpa, but Grandpa accuses them of abuse, try to get a feel for the situation. If Grandpa lets it be known that "everyone is in co-hoots, including the cops" you may have reason to believe that Alzheimer’s is speaking, not the real person.
We don’t want to let any abuse go unreported, but we don’t want to see a caring family dragged into a battle where the elder is taken from the home and potential legal help will be needed just to clear their name. Common sense applies. However, do remember the vulnerable person comes first.
Generally - and I say generally because I’ve heard some horror stories to the contrary - but most of the time, authorities have some feeling about whether an elder is truly being abused or not.
Internationally recognized color of elder abuse is purple
A note from the designer of the Christina G. jewelry collection, much of which is awareness jewelry, alerted me to the fact that purple is the color chosen for elder abuse awareness. If you shop the elder abuse awareness collection, type “elder abuse” in the search for the full collection. There are lovely bracelets and earrings on the site, with everything currently on sale. If you are interested in finding a bracelet or other jewelry to trumpet your support of elder abuse awareness, give Christina’s site a try. She told me that she’d be adding to the collection all month.
If you type "elder abuse awareness jewelry" into your search engine, you’ll find awareness coasters, tee shirts and other items as well, so jewelry isn’t your only option. If nothing else, raise awareness by forwarding this article to friends and family members so that their awareness is raised. We want to care for our vulnerable people in the best way possible. That starts with ending abuse.
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran family caregiver who spent more than two decades caring for a total of seven elders. She is a newspaper columnist and the author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. Bradley Bursack is also a contributor to several books on caregiving and dementia, and is passionate about preserving the dignity of elders. Her website is www.mindingourelders.com. Follow Carol on Twitter @mindingourelder and on Facebook at Minding Our Elders.