7 Simple Ways to Prevent Elder Abuse

On June 15, we recognize World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, shining a light on the millions of older people who are abused, neglected, and exploited each year.

Older people in low- and middle-income countries, where HelpAge focuses our work and where aging inequity can be particularly severe, are especially at risk, with 1 in 6 people aged 60 or older experiencing some form of abuse. Here in the U.S., data from the National Council on Aging shows that approximately one in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse, emphasizing the urgent need to protect and support older people in the US and around the world.

Elder abuse is a serious issue, but there are things we can all do to help keep our older loved ones safe and happy.

Elder abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual, financial, or even neglect. Here are seven easy tips to prevent elder abuse and ensure all older people live with dignity and respect.

1. Stay in touch

Loneliness can make older people more vulnerable to abuse. 

Make an effort to visit, call, or video chat with your older loved ones often.

Encourage them to join community groups, attend social events, or participate in online activities to stay connected and engaged.

2. Learn the signs

Understanding what elder abuse looks like can help you spot it early. 

Look out for unexplained injuries, sudden changes in their financial situation, withdrawal from activities they usually enjoy, or poor hygiene.

Share this information with friends and family to create a watchful and caring community.

3. Help with finances

Financial abuse is common.

Help older adults manage their money safely by offering support with setting up automatic bill payments, checking bank statements, and involving a trusted person in financial decisions.

Be aware of scams and share information about common tricks used by fraudsters.

How HelpAge monitors neglect and abuse in older people

Through Older People’s Associations (OPAs), the HelpAge Global Network supports millions of older people around the world by amplifying their voices and promoting their rights.

OPAs are grassroots organizations run by and for older people. One key initiative of OPAs is Older Citizen Monitoring (OCM) mechanisms, which:

  1. Raise awareness among older people about their rights and relevant laws/policies.
  2. Empower them to monitor the implementation of government policies and services that affect their lives and use the evidence to advocate for change.
Additionally, OCM monitor violence, abuse and neglect of older people, while OPAs actively work to raise awareness about these issues among their older members.

4. Respect their choices

It’s important to respect the decisions of older adults.

Encourage them to make their own choices and support their independence.

Make sure they have a say in their care plans, daily activities, and financial choices. Empowering them boosts their confidence and helps prevent abuse.

5. Check on caregivers.

Caregivers can sometimes be the abusers.

If the older person is able to pay for care, encourage them to do thorough background checks and regularly check in on how the care is going.

Be mindful of signs that the caregiver is stressed or burnt out and help them to access support, as caregiver stress may increase the likelihood of abusive behavior.

6. Know their rights

Understand the legal rights of older adults in your area and advocate for stronger protections and laws against elder abuse.

Encourage the use of legal tools like durable powers of attorney and living wills to ensure their wishes are respected and they are protected.

7. Speak up

If you suspect elder abuse, don’t stay silent. Report it to local adult protective services, law enforcement, or a trusted healthcare provider.

Acting quickly can prevent further harm and ensure the older person gets the help they need.

Keeping our older loved ones safe from abuse starts with all of us.

This World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, let’s work together to ensure older people live with the dignity and respect they deserve.

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