The risk of aging

Washington, DC – Reports of physical and financial abuse of the elderly are on the rise throughout the country.  It’s a crime that, experts say, is largely underreported.  But, a new light needs to be shed on this dirty little secret, says Dan Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC].

“Older Americans are easy targets in most cases.  Many of them depend on caregivers for survival and that makes them beholden and vulnerable.  It also can make them reluctant to let anyone know what is happening to them.  You’d think that friends and family would be the first to notice that an aging neighbor or relative is being abused.  But, the sad fact is that in too many cases it is a family member or a friend that is perpetrating the abuse.”

It’s up to “those of us with a conscience,” says Weber, to root out any instances of ill treatment.   The alarming truth is that for each case of abuse that is reported there are dozens more that are not.

The Elder Justice Roadmap project, supported by the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services, has a broad-ranging definition of elder abuse: “physical, sexual, or psychological abuse, as well as neglect, abandonments, and financial exploitation of an older person by another person or entity, that occurs in any setting (e.g. home, community, or facility), either in a relationship where there is an expectation of trust and/or when an older person is targeted based on age or disability.”

If you suspect that someone whom you know is the victim of abuse, check it out.  Signs of physical abuse are obvious.  They include unexplained injuries including new bruises and abrasions.  If you notice that an aging relative or friend is making too many trips to the bank or is suddenly running up mysterious charges on a credit card, he or she may be a victim of fraud.  And, if you notice unusual weight loss or curious behavior, they could be signs of neglect or emotional abuse.

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