This weekend, communities across the nation and throughout the world will unite to observe World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. In Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal proclaimed June 15, 2014 as Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
Every year an estimated 4 million older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect or exploitation. That's just a small part of the problem. Experts believe that for every case of elder abuse or neglect reported, as many as 23 cases go unreported. In Louisiana, more than 7,300 cases of abuse involving older and vulnerable adults were reported last year.
"Elder abuse, neglect and exploitation is a crime against Louisiana's aging population," Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kliebert. "All Louisianians have a moral and legal obligation to stand up and take action against this serious issue by reporting abuse and not turning a blind eye."
Experts believe that older adults who experience abuse, neglect or exploitation face a considerably higher risk of premature death than those who have not been mistreated.
There are several types of elder abuse:
- Physical Abuse-physical pain or injury, e.g. slapping, bruising, or restraining
- Sexual Abuse-non-consensual sexual contact of any kind
- Caregiver Neglect-the failure of the responsible caregiver to provide food, shelter, health care or protection
- Exploitation-taking, misusing, or concealing funds, property, or assets
- Emotional Abuse-inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts, e.g. humiliating, intimidating, or threatening
- Abandonment-desertion by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care
- Self-neglect-failure of a person to perform essential self-care tasks to the extent it threatens his/her health or safety
Successful intervention depends on reports by persons who suspect mistreatment. Many victims are reluctant to report abuse because they fear retribution, lack of care, embarrassment and institutionalization. Often, the victim is unable to speak out due to dementia or other impairments.
"The Office of Aging and Adult Services is committed to protecting Louisiana's most vulnerable citizens," LDH Office for Aging and Adult Services Assistant Secretary Hugh Eley said. "This is a much larger problem than people realize. It happens in all settings, and unfortunately, in most cases, the abuse comes from family members or other caregivers who are supposed to be taking care of the victim."
The Department of Health and Hospitals, Office of Aging and Adult Services investigates abuse, neglect and exploitation of adults ages 18 and older who have an intellectual or physical disability, persons with chronic disease or frail older adults, who have a limited ability to provide for their own care or protection.
Recognizing the signs of abuse, neglect and exploitation is the first step. You should look for;
- Bruises and skin discoloration
- Burns, welts, cuts, evidence of bites or bed sores
- Visitors refused access to the house
- Withdrawal (refusing to or not allowed to leave home)
- Unclean, smelly, dirty or inadequate clothes
- Weight loss, appears hungry, begging, or searching for food
- No utilities
- Unsanitary surroundings
- Use of adult's monies/resources by another
- Withdrawal of money in substantial amounts
- Restricted movement, locked in room
Anyone who suspects a vulnerable adult is being abused should contact LDH's Adult Protective Services at 1-800-898-4910. Visit the Adult Protective Services website at: www.dhh.la.gov/aps.