The health and well-being of people who are elderly should be one of our highest priorities and concerns. We have them to thank for many contributions that have bettered our lives. Older persons deserve honor and respect, not abuse. Reaching old age should be a time to treasure grandchildren and reminisce about the past. Unfortunately, many of our elders reach their so-called golden years abused and alone. People do not like to talk about this shameful secret. Many elderly are taken advantage of by the people who are supposed to care for them.
Abusers may be spouses, family members, personal acquaintances or professionals in a position of trust, or opportunistic strangers who prey on the vulnerable. Research indicates that more than one in 10 may experience some type of abuse, but only one in five cases or fewer are reported. This means that very few seniors who have been abused get the help they need.
Elder abuse can happen to any older individual - your neighbor, your loved one - it can even happen to you. Elder abuse can happen in the home or other institutions. Based on available information, women and "older" elders are more likely to be victimized.
Types of elder abuse include physical abuse, the use of force to threaten or physically injure a vulnerable elder; emotional abuse, verbal attacks, threats, rejection, isolation or belittling acts that cause or could cause mental anguish, pain or distress to a senior; sexual abuse, sexual contact that is forced, tricked, threatened or otherwise coerced upon a vulnerable elder; exploitation, theft fraud, misuse or neglect of authority and use of undue influence as a lever to gain control over an older person's money or property; and neglect, a caregiver's failure or refusal to provide for a vulnerable elder's safety, physical or emotional needs.
As one of our most important natural resources, elderly people deserve our utmost attention and respect. We should treat them the same way we would hope to be treated ourselves. Keep that in mind as we mark Elder Abuse Awareness Month.
If you suspect elder abuse, contact the Jefferson County Job and Family Services Adult Protection Unit at (740) 282-0961.
Together, we have the power to prevent elder abuse.
(Ferron is director of Jefferson County Job and Family Services.)