Elder abuse is a global problem, and the World Health Organization is working to combat it through education and raised awareness.
A definition of elder abuse from the World Health Organization (WHO) was recently described in The Carroll County Times of Westminster MD, in “Know the signs of elder abuse and report it if necessary.” The definition is very specific and includes abuse towards older women and men:
Elder abuse (also called "elder mistreatment," "senior abuse," "abuse in later life," "abuse of older adults," "abuse of older women," and "abuse of older men") is "a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.
The phrase "any relationship where there is an element of trust" is important, because people known to the elderly person commit the most elder abuse. Abuse may show up in one or more aspects such as physical, emotional/psychological, sexual or financial. The National Adult Protective Services Association lists the most reported types of abuse:
- Physical abuse;
- Emotional abuse;
- Financial or material exploitation;
- Sexual abuse; and
These types of abuse and exploitation are frequently committed by spouses, family members and formal caregivers in the home or in assisted living housing or nursing homes, as well as strangers who prey on the aging population.
People are often reluctant to speak up about elder abuse, if they are not close to the person and aren’t sure if the abuse is real or not. Neighbors, family members, friends and those who spend time with the elderly should educate themselves about the warning signs and report any cases of suspected abuse to law enforcement. The saying “if you see something, say something,” is a good motto when it comes to elder abuse.
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