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Bring elder abuse to the forefront

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POSTED: June 17, 2014 2:00 p.m.

Each year, an estimated 5 million older persons are abused, neglected and exploited.
In addition, elders throughout the United States lose an estimated $2.6 billion or more annually due to elder financial abuse and exploitation — funds that could have been used to pay for basic needs such as housing, food and medical care.
Unfortunately, no one is immune to abuse, neglect and exploitation. It occurs in every demographic and can happen to anyone — a family member, a neighbor, even you. Yet it is estimated that only about 1 in 5 of those crimes are ever discovered.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was launched June 15, 2006, by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. The purpose of WEAAD is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.
How can you be involved? Each year on or around June 15, communities and municipalities around the world plan activities and programs to recognize WEAAD. It is an excellent opportunity to share information about abuse, neglect and exploitation in later life.
This year, WEAAD happens to fall on Father’s Day. If your father is elderly and lives a few hours away, as mine did before he went onto glory, and you are planning to visit him on this special day, spend some extra time with him and note everything that goes on in a day’s time. Make sure he has a good network of friends and family to support his needs and concerns.
A safe and secure environment, medical needs, meal preparation, fall prevention, money management and socialization are the six important areas to look at for any older parent or loved one that is living alone. Note his surroundings and observe his daily routine of activities. Just asking Dad how things are going will not be enough. You might get a simple answer, like “OK” or “I get along fine.” There usually is more information that needs to be heard. Ask penetrating questions when possible.
Be careful, however, and tread lightly as you probe into the daily-life habits of your older parent. Dad may think you are trying to get him to leave his house, or worse, move to a nursing home. It is the biggest fear of many older adults. Be supportive and let your father know you want only the “best” for him.
But be thorough in your observations as well. Older adults who live alone are targets for abuse and exploitation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the story about the repairman who skips out of town with money in hand before the work ever started.
Some years ago, one of my older friends wanted me to drive him to Walmart so he could wire money to his nephew because he had been in a car accident in Canada. With just a few probing questions and a little investigation, we discovered it was a scam.
The best thing anyone can do for an older loved one is to spend time with him or her. Time is a gift that is priceless. Happy Father’s Day.

Portions of this article came from the Administration for Community Living. Search www.ACL.gov for more information. DeLong is the executive director of The Suites at Station Exchange. Call him at 912-531-7867 or go to www.thesuitesatstationexchange.com.

 

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