World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

By Laurie Pike


Thursday, June 15, 2017 was World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.  World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was initiated on June 15th, 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations.  The purpose of this day is to promote a better understanding of elder abuse and neglect, and to raise awareness of the cultural, social, economic, and demographic issues affecting elder abuse and neglect.   The moto for this year is One Person, One Action, One Nation United against Elder Abuse.  In correlation with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Governor LaPage has declared June 15, 2017 to be Maine Elder Abuse Awareness Day.  Governor LaPage stated that “All Mainer’s have a responsibility to speak up and report concerns about Elder Abuse”.  This day is an opportunity for all people to unite around the world to share information and spread awareness to prevent and end abuse, neglect, and exploitation later in life.

Every year there are five million elder victims of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation in the world and for every case that is reported, there are an estimated twenty three incidents that go unreported.  In the State of Maine only one in every fourteen cases is reported.  Over thirty-three thousand older adults in the Maine are abuse, neglected, or exploited every year.  This unconscionable problem is overlooked, underreported, and unrecognized by many in our fast paced race through life, but it is a reprehensible crime against our elders.  Maine has a long tradition of pride and independence and an unwillingness to ask for help by elders who have worked hard their entire lives.  They should be protected from victimization and remain well respected active members of our society.  

The world elder demographic is growing and by 2050 the global population of people above the age of sixty will exceed the number of younger people in the world.  These elder population changes have led to worldwide recognition of the problems and challenges faced by the elderly.  In the United States, the State of Maine has the oldest population in the nation and is the most rural state in the nation.  Every year in the State of Maine, eighteen thousand people are turning sixty-five.   If we choose to do nothing to prevent the abuse of Maine’s rapidly growing and aging population, we are accepting this culturally unacceptable travesty as a part of our communities.

Elder abuse refers to the intentional or neglectful acts by a caregiver or other individual that lead to, or may lead to the harm of a vulnerable or dependent elder.  Elder abuse includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, neglect, abandonment, and self-neglect.  Elder abuse can occur anywhere including family homes, nursing and residential facilities, and other institutions.  It affects elders of all social-economic groups, cultures, and races.  Dementia is a significant risk factor, as well as mental health, substance abuse, and isolation issues.  If you are now asking yourself what you can do to prevent the abuse and neglect of our local elders, you can learn to recognize the signs and in becoming aware can respond and report to prevent it.  Maine Adult Protective Services (APS) is responsible for providing and arranging for services to protect incapacitated or dependent adults from danger.  APS performs assessments of suspected abuse and neglect of our elders and helps dependent elders connect with supportive services to reduce the risk.  APS staff may also petition for Public Guardianship and/or Conservatorship of incapacitated adults when all less restrictive alternatives have failed to provide a safe outcome.  If you expect an elder adult is being abused or neglected, report it to Maine Adult Protective Services by calling 1-800-624-8404.  You do not need to have proof that someone is being abused or neglected to make a report and your report might make all the difference for that person.

You can also help your elder neighbors and relatives by keeping in contact and maintaining communication to decrease isolation and be aware of issues they may be experiencing.  Be aware that abuse can be a possibility and take note of how the elder is acting or responding to caregivers.  Help elder neighbors and family members make contact with our local Eastern Area Agency on Aging Office to find out about local programs and supports by calling 1-800-432-7812.  If the elder person needs legal advice or intervention, call Legal Services for the Elderly for free and confidential services at 1-800-750-5353.  World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is a great time to begin to get involved to support the efforts to end elder abuse in our society.