According to the American Psychological Association, every year, an estimated 4 million older Americans are victims of physical, psychological or other forms of abuse and neglect. And for every case of elder abuse and neglect reported to authorities, experts estimate as many as 23 cases go undetected. No one wants to think it would happen to them or a loved one, but it can, so we should all take steps to protect against abuse.
- Educate yourself. Most elder abuse takes place at home, not in nursing homes, and family, other household members or paid caregivers are usually the abusers.
- Seek out social contact and support. Isolation increases the likelihood of abuse and makes it less likely to be noticed. Socializing, including participating in community and religious activities, is good for seniors’ emotional and physical health.
- Stay in touch with loved ones. If you are a senior, let others know about your activities, health and financial issues. If you have loved ones who are elderly, call and visit regularly, keep the lines of communication open and be on the lookout for changes that may suggest abuse.
- Be wary of anyone asking for money. That includes friends, relatives, caregivers, or strangers. Many seniors fall prey to financial scams, but financial exploitation is more often done by people you know.
- Plan for the future. Long before you or a family member may need care, execute legal documents such as a will, trust, durable power of attorney and health care proxy. Designate trusted individuals to help manage your money and your health if needed. As the senior, make your wishes clear to others so they can watch for sudden changes that could indicate something is wrong. If there is likely to be family conflict over your decisions, address them proactively with the help of professionals, such as elder law mediators, attorneys and counselors.
- Get help. If you are being abused or suspect someone else is, report it. There are many resources to help victims.
Sadly, there are many people vulnerable to abuse. The best protection is to be proactive. For more information on planning for the future, read out related post Who Will Help You If You Can’t Care for Yourself?
If you need help planning for your long-term care, contact me for a consultation.