June is World Elder Abuse Awareness Month

June 2, 2023

A common myth is that domestic or family violence only happens to younger people. But the truth is, abuse can happen at any age. According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse. Elder abuse is also significantly underreported. One study estimated that authorities are only alerted to one in 24 cases of elder abuse.

What is elder abuse?
Elder abuse is harm, or threatened harm, to an adult 50 and over, by a spouse or partner, family member (child, grandchild or extended family), caregiver, friend or stranger. The term “elder abuse” includes physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse, stalking, neglect, and financial exploitation. Abusers can be any gender. In almost 60% of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the abuser is a family member. Two-thirds of abusers are adult children or spouses. These stats are likely much higher, as true statistics are difficult to gather.

This is a significant issue, as elders who are abused have a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who have not been mistreated.

What are the signs of elder abuse?
Signs of elder abuse often overlap with symptoms of dementia, Alzheimer’s or general frailty. Some examples include:

  • Sudden behavior changes
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Fear, anxiety or agitation
  • Isolation or withdrawal
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Change in appetite
  • Bruises, welts, or burns
  • Broken glasses, cane or walker
  • Missing heirlooms, jewelry
  • New friends who “help” shop or run errands

How do I help?
DO NOT DISMISS or ignore the signs or symptoms. BELIEVE the elder adult’s story and INVESTIGATE the situation thoroughly. If you have concerns about your safety or the safety of someone else, you can call YWCA Missoula’s 24-hour helpline at (406) 542-1944.

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