Guest post by SafeSeniors

  • She hit me… it must be something I did.
  • They took my money… maybe they think I said it was ok?
  • My son was supposed to take care of me but he left me alone and in need… maybe I made him angry?

1 in 10 older adults in the United States experience abuse, neglect, and exploitation, but it’s estimated that only 1 in 24 abuse and neglect cases are reported to the authorities, and only 1 in 44 financial exploitation cases are reported.

Cases go unreported for a variety of reasons, but knowing those reasons can help us educate ourselves and others so that more cases can be reported and further abuse and financial loss can be stopped.

Older adults are often fearful that if they report abuse they will lose their independence, lose their caregiver, or face retribution. One common form of elder abuse is emotional abuse, which may include threats or intimidation. One of the red flags for this type of abuse is a caretaker who is reluctant to allow the senior to spend time alone with visiting family or friends.

Almost 60% of abuse and neglect cases involve a family member or a friend as the abuser; the number jumps to 85.5% for financial exploitation cases. Those who are being abused or exploited by a family member may not speak up for fear of bringing shame to the family or causing problems within the greater family dynamic.

Victims of abuse and exploitation may feel a sense of shame that they were unable to defend themselves or that someone took advantage of them.

Many family members, friends, or even nursing facility staff don’t know how to identify the signs of possible abuse or what they should do if they have reason to believe that an elderly adult is being abused. Signs of abuse and neglect can be mistakenly attributed to the elderly patient’s symptoms to their age or other medical conditions. For types of abuse and common warning signs, click here.

If you are experiencing or suspect abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation, it’s important to report the abuse by calling Adult Protective Services at 855-444-3911. Someone is on hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to take the report, which can be done anonymously. The report is then sent to the local Adult Protective Services (APS) office, which will start an investigation. In Muskegon, Oceana, and Ottawa counties, the SafeSeniors partners work with APS to provide support to the victim and assistance with the investigation. 

About the Author

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SafeSeniors is on of the AgeWell Services of West Michigan programs which works to identify, advocate, and seek justice for adult victims of abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation within Muskegon, Ottawa, and Oceana counties of Michigan. We will occasionally share posts on this blog from SafeSeniors. This post was originally shared on the SafeSeniors website on November 4, 2021.

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