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How to help prevent elder abuse

Posted by Marcia Dick  June 8, 2010 10:00 AM

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The following is a column by Dan O'Leary of Mystic Valley Elder Services that highlights information about Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which is June 15. The agency, based in Malden, also serves senior citizens in Medford and Melrose:

Question: I recently attended a seminar about elder abuse and was shocked and saddened to learn how often it occurs. Perhaps it was naive of me, but I didn’t realize its prevalence and how many different forms abuse can take. The instructor mentioned that coming up in June is Elder Abuse Awareness Day. I feel compelled to help spread the word about this incredibly serious issue and wondered if you had ideas about what I can do to promote awareness about elder abuse.

Answer: I commend you for joining in the effort to promote awareness about elder abuse. Unfortunately elder abuse is often an under-recognized problem with devastating and sometimes even life threatening consequences. Sadly, elder abuse happens around the world and right in our own communities. And, it can happen to anyone—a relative, friend, neighbor, and could even happen to us later in life. You’re taking an important first step in spreading awareness by just talking about the issue.

As you likely learned in your seminar, there are many types of elder abuse. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), elder abuse refers to intentional or negligent acts by a caregiver or “trusted” individual that causes, or potentially causes, harm to a vulnerable elder. The most common types of abuse include neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse and exploitation, verbal, emotional or psychological abuse and neglect.

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which is recognized by communities throughout the world as a time to increase our efforts to raise awareness of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. There are many ways you can become involved in the fight against elder abuse and to help spread awareness. Here are some suggestions that NCEA offers:

- Make it a priority to visit an older friend or relative, especially someone you haven’t seen in a while.

- Wear purple in recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15. Purple is the color that has been designated for elder abuse awareness by the International Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse.

- Start an elder abuse awareness group on a social networking site like “Facebook,” and encourage friends to join the group. Provide links to information and advocacy resources.

- Reach out to elders who may be isolated. Commit to visiting an older friend, family member or neighbor who lives alone or invite them to a family activity. Ask an older acquaintance to share their talents by teaching you a new skill, such as knitting or how to bake a favorite recipe.

- Volunteer for a program that serves elders. Consider becoming a nursing home ombudsman, health insurance advisor, Money Management Program volunteer, home-delivered meals driver, medical escort or friendly visitor.

You’ll find more suggestions like these on NCEA’s web site or along with a wealth of other resources, brochures, fact sheets, and more.

Anyone who suspects elder abuse should report it to their local elder services protection agency. Protective Services are designed to eliminate or alleviate the alleged abuse of an elder. Caseworkers work in conjunction with community agencies providing health, mental health and social services.

To report a case of elder abuse in this area, call MVES at 781-324-7705. If you need assistance after hours, call the 24-hour Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-922-2275.

Are you an elder with a question about aging? Are you in a dilemma caring for an aging or disabled family member? Mystic Valley Elder Services’ trained advisors are available for no-cost consultations by calling 781-324-7705.

Do you have a question? Write to Dan O'Leary, Attn: Q&A, Mystic Valley Elder Services, 300 Commercial St., #19, Malden, MA 02148 or send an e-mail to

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