World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15th
Joe Gavin is the Chief Programs & Community Engagement Office of the San Diego Seniors Community Foundation.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was launched on June 15, 2006, by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations.
The purpose of WEAAD is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.
Approximately 1 in 10 Americans over age 60 experience some form of elder abuse. According to a 2017 study, 15.7% of people over age 60 experienced some type of abuse, but it is likely underestimated since only 1 in 24 cases of elder abuse is reported. Two out of 3 elder abuse victims are women.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Elder abuse is an intentional act or failure to act that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult. An older adult is someone age 60 or older. The abuse often occurs at the hands of a caregiver or a person the elder trusts.”
The World Health Organization states that “Elder abuse can be defined as “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 National Research Council describes elder abuse as “(a) intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trust relationship to the elder, or (b) failure by a caregiver to satisfy the elder’s basic needs or to protect the elder from harm.”
Elder mistreatment typically takes one of five forms: physical abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, and neglect. As with the broader definition of elder mistreatment, understandings of specific types of maltreatment may vary. They are often impacted and informed by socio-cultural orientations and may be differently construed by diverse constituencies and individuals.
Physical Abuse: the intentional or reckless use of physical force or physical coercion that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment. Acts of physical violence include, but are not limited to, hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, shaking, slapping, kicking, pinching, and burning. Physical abuse also embraces any unlawful, excessive, or unnecessary use of physical or chemical means to restrain or confine an elder, such as force-feeding and physical punishment.
Sexual Abuse: non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an older adult, perpetrated through force, threats, or the exploitation of authority. Sexual abuse includes, but is not limited to, unwanted touching, sexual assault or battery, sexual harassment, and sexual interaction with elders who lack the capacity to give consent.
Emotional or Psychological Abuse: the infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts including, but not limited to verbal assaults, insults, threats, intimidation, humiliation, isolation, and harassment.
Financial Abuse: the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property, or assets including, but not limited to misusing or stealing an older person’s money or possessions, coercing or deceiving an older person into signing any document (e.g., contracts or will), and the improper use of conservatorship, guardianship, or power of attorney.
Neglect: the refusal or failure to fulfill any part of a person’s obligations or duties of care to an elder which include, but are not limited to, life necessities such as food, water, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medicine, comfort, and personal safety.
The County of San Diego District Attorney’s Elder Abuse Unit is recognized as a national and international leader in combatting elder abuse. Every year, this office responds to over 10,000 cases of elder and dependent adult abuse. For more information on the work of this division of the Family Protection Crimes Unit, follow this link https://www.sdcda.org/helping/elder-abuse
To learn more about World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, please visit https://ncea.acl.gov/WEAAD.aspx
The San Diego Seniors Community Foundation is a member of the County’s Elder Abuse Council and is proud of our collaboration with the County District Attorney’s office in bringing much-needed attention to this critical issue facing a growing number of vulnerable older adults.
Please contact APS (Adult Protective Services) if you observe, suspect, or have knowledge of physical abuse, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation, abduction, neglect by others or neglect by self. Anyone can report abuse to APS, not just mandated reporters.
- Call 911 if a life-threatening situation is in progress
- To make a report of elder or dependent adult abuse, call 800-339-4661
- Mandated reporters can use an online system to make a report at www.AISWebReferral.org.
For free legal assistance for elder law and advocacy, please visit San Diego Senior Law and Advocacy: http://seniorlaw-sd.org/