The thought of a vulnerable older person being abused is horrifying, but it can happen anywhere and to almost anyone.
Elder abuse can occur in the home, nursing homes or other institutions – anywhere, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.
Elder abuse knows no socio-economic, racial or cultural boundaries.
Studies show that women are more likely to be victims, the NCEA reports.
And, it is estimated that as few as one in five cases are reported.
“It can happen to anyone, at any place, at any time,” said Cheryl Senkbeil, MAC Inc.’s Ombudsman, who works to safeguard area elderly who live in nursing homes or assisted-living facilities. “It could be your loved one. It could be you.”
In observance of June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the community is encouraged to stop by MAC to learn more about elder abuse: the types, the signs, and where to go for help.
Featured from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. will be information from MAC, local law enforcement representatives, local legal aide bureau, and Adult Protective Services in Wicomico County, in addition to displays and giveaways.
In addition, a presentation on elder abuse, with an emphasis on financial exploitation and scams, will be presented in the Salisbury Wicomico Senior Center at 10:30 a.m. This presentation is especially important, Senkbeil said, at a time when financial exploitation of the elderly is on the rise.
Signs of financial exploitation may include a sudden change in financial situation, loss of property, change in will or power of attorney.
Other types of elder abuse and the warning signs include:
Physical – Slap marks, unexplained bruises, cigarette burns
Sexual – Bruises around the genital area, unexplained sexually transmitted diseases
Emotional/psychological – Withdraw from usual activities, unusual behavior changes
Neglect – Malnutrition or dehydration, lack of cleanliness in the home or of the person, pressure sores.
Risk factors for elder abuse include dementia, isolation, mental health and substance abuse.
Senkbeil said elder abuse often goes unreported because the seniors are embarrassed about being the victim of abuse, they fear retaliation, or they believe reporting the abuse won’t help.
In the case of suspected elder abuse, and if the senior is living in the community or in an assisted living facility, “always call the police,” Senkbeil said. In addition, Adult Protective Services in the senior’s county of residence should be contacted.
In the case of suspected abuse in a nursing home, call Senkbeil at MAC at 410-742-0505, ext. 104. “Anyone can make an anonymous call to verbalize their concern,” she said.
Senkbeil encouraged the community to stop by MAC June 15 to learn more about elder abuse.
“We all want to know what to look out for to protect our seniors and disabled from any type of abuse,” she said. “Knowledge is power.”
The community is also encouraged to wear purple on June 15, to show their support of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
MAC Incorporated, the Area Agency on Aging, serves senior citizens in Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties. MAC’s mission is to provide programs and services that preserve dignity, health and independence for an aging population. MAC is a United Way member agency.