Lifting Up Voices: Protecting Older Adults from Elder Abuse

As adults get older, they can become more vulnerable to scams and different types of abuse—sometimes from those whom they trust. The statistics show this is a pervasive problem, which is becoming increasingly common. Elder abuse has been recognized as a largely hidden public health problem that affects five million, or one in ten older Americans aged 60 and older, every year, according to the National Council on Aging. Globally, an estimated 141 million older adults have experienced elder abuse.

What is elder abuse?

It is well known that millions of older adults are financially exploited each year. In fact, reports from Bloomberg indicate that those over 60 in the US are losing $37 billion a year to fraud—and that is just what is reported. However, the impact goes far beyond the pocket book and affects the physical and emotional health of victims. Unfortunately, in approximately 60 percent of financial exploitations of older adults, the perpetrator is a family member.

Abuse of older adults is not limited to finances. Elder abuse also includes physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, as well as exploitation, neglect, and abandonment. These perpetrators are also often known to the victim and can include adult children, other family members, and spouses, as well as staff at nursing homes, assisted living, and other facilities.

Why don’t older adults ask for help?

Many older adults find these problems difficult to talk about, and so many just don’t. They hesitate to share them with others because of:

  • Shame or embarrassment
  • Fear of retaliation
  • Sense of resignation or powerlessness
  • Family loyalty
  • Lack of credibility
  • Fear of nursing homes or institutions

Spotting the signs of elder abuse

While an older adult may not report elderly abuse, there are some things people can watch out for as a caregiver or loved one to spot the signs of abuse. Take concern if an older adult:

  • Seems depressed, confused, or withdrawn
  • Is isolated from friends and family
  • Has unexplained bruises, burns, or scars
  • Appears dirty, under-fed, dehydrated, over- or under-medicated, or not receiving needed care for medical problems
  • Has recent changes in banking or spending patterns

“Elder abuse has been recognized as a largely hidden public health problem that affects an estimated 5 million, or one in 10 older Americans aged 60 and older, every year.”


Where to report suspicions of elder and dependent abuse

Adult Protective Services agencies investigate complaints about abuse, neglect, and exploitation of adults who are unable to care for themselves or make decisions due to mental or physical impairment, illness, or a crisis in their lives.

If you believe that an adult age 60 or older has suffered abuse, neglect, or exploitation, you may file a report with your county department of Job and Family Services by phone, mail, fax, or in person during agency hours—or you can call 1-855-OHIO-APSS (1-855-644-6277) toll-free at any time of day. In Hamilton County, call Adult Protective Services at 513-421-LIFE (5433). All calls are confidential. People who witness any form of abuse should call 911.

AgeWell Cincinnati is also able to answer your questions about elder abuse and help connect you to the agency that can best provide support.

Taking action

We live in an aging society. A large number of older adults are isolated, and it is easy for elder abuse to happen—particularly as Baby Boomers age and scammers and others recognize that this population has trillions in assets that they can help themselves to with seemingly little repercussions.

The Elder Fraud and Elder Justice Act was passed in 2010. Prosecutors and practitioners say that more money needs to be appropriated to try to prevent elder abuse from happening. Unfortunately, there is not enough money to research, prevent, and train people to recognize and deal with this epidemic. Collaborative action focused on preventing abuse across the lifespan—from keeping children safe to the wellbeing of elders—is vital for the entire community.

Lifting Up Voices for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2019 in Cincinnati

Every year on June 15, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is commemorated in the US and around the world. WEAAD was launched by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) and the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life (NCALL) has joined forces with WEAAD with this year’s theme, Lifting Up Voices for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) 2019. AgeWell Cincinnati strives to increase elder abuse awareness, as we Lift Up Voices for older adults in our community.