Written by Jessica Meadows
On June 15, 2006, the International Network for Elder Abuse and the United Nations worked together to designate June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). The goal was to assure that elder abuse is recognized as a human rights issue and to globally promote awareness, improve response, and to spur interest and action in research.
Locally, the Marathon County Board passed a proclamation on June 23, 2020, recognizing Elder Abuse Awareness Day in Marathon County. Programs at North Central Health Care and the Aging & Disability Resource Center of Central Wisconsin focus on protecting our elderly populations.
Elder abuse has been a silent epidemic — less recognized and reported than other abuses. Victims of elder abuse may be much less likely to speak up as they fear it may trigger a loss of their independence or of being viewed as less capable.
Why Is It Important to Increase Awareness?
- At the present time, 10,000 people turn 65 every day in the United States.
- By 2050, the population of those 60 and above is anticipated to exceed the number of younger persons.
- Statistics show that 1 in 10 elders face abuse of some kind — but only 1 out of 14 cases are actually reported to the authorities (some estimates show this as much higher).
- Estimates of elder financial abuse and fraud costs range from $2.9 billion to $36.5 billion.
- In 2018, North Central Health Care’s Adult Protective Services Department received and investigated 380 reports of suspected elder abuse cases (152 more for adults).*
- Elders who experience abuse have a 300% higher risk of death than elders who have not experienced abuse.
What Is Elder Abuse?
In Wisconsin, for the purposes of abuse investigation, an elder is considered an individual aged 60 or over who has experienced abuse or who is suspected to have experienced abuse, or who is at risk of abuse.
Abuse includes many things:
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Emotional/psychological abuse
- Financial exploitation
The greatest numbers of reports received are for self-neglect, and reports of financial abuse are on the rise.
It’s Up to Us to Stop Elder Abuse
These are some signs of elder abuse. Read more about the red flags of abuse.
- Sudden changes in behavior
- Decisions are not in their best interest
- Unusual changes in spending or money management
- Unexplained physical injuries
- Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases
- Unhealthy or unsafe living conditions
Elder abuse can occur anywhere — in the home, in nursing homes, or other institutions. It affects seniors across all socioeconomic groups, cultures, and races.
What Can You Do?
- Learn about elder abuse, and participate in awareness-raising events such as WEAAD.
- If you have suspicions — REPORT IT! No one needs to prove or know for sure if abuse is really happening to be able to report it. Leave that determination to the experts.
REMEMBER: Most cases of elder abuse go undetected. Don’t assume that someone has already reported a suspicious situation.
How to Report Elder Abuse or Suspicions of Elder Abuse
- In cases of immediate danger, call 911.
- In Marathon, Lincoln, and Langlade Counties, you can call Adult Protective Services of North Central Health Care at 841.5160 or toll-free 1.855.487.3338 to talk over questions or concerns. For help outside this area, please call Eldercare Locator at 1.800.677.1116 to be connected with your local reporting agency.
- Visit norcen.org/StopElderAbuse for more information.
- Stop in at Adult Protective Services of North Central Health Care in their new offices at 2600 Stewart Avenue, Suite 22, in Wausau. Being housed in the same building as the Aging & Disability Resource Center of Central Wisconsin, this new location will help individuals access services from both programs by visiting one facility. Adult Protective Services serves Marathon, Lincoln, and Langlade Counties.
*Statistics from Elder Justice/National Council on Aging (NCOA) and North Central Health Care – Adult Protective Services.
Communications & Marketing Director | North Central Health Care
As the Communications and Marketing Coordinator at North Central Health Care (NCHC), Jessica Meadows is passionate about being able to use her creative talents to connect people to healthcare, resources, and networking that will impact their life in a positive way. Prior to joining NCHC, she was a Creative Director and leader at a marketing agency in the Stevens Point area. With almost 20 years’ experience in print, web, social media, video, radio, and public relations, it was important for her to connect back to her roots here in the Wausau area, where she and her husband raise their two young children. When she’s not busy at an event or volunteering, she enjoys playing sports, coaching, biking, traveling, and exploring the outdoors. Email Jessica Meadows.
Caring for elder image via iStock.com.
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