This blog post was written by Kim Crowley, 4th year English Major & Marketing Minor at the University of Maine and Community Response & Prevention Team Intern at Partners for Peace.
Partners for Peace recognizes June as Elder Abuse Awareness Month and June 15th as World Elder Abuse Day.
Maine is one of the oldest states in the country, with over 18% of our population over the age of 65. Aging populations are vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and exploitation—primarily at the hands of their family members or caretakers.
Abuse in later life is a serious issue and comes in many forms, not all of which are readily visible or detectable. We must therefore educate ourselves on the multitude of forms of elder abuse in order to better protect and serve our aging Mainers.
The primary forms of abuse perpetrated against elderly people include neglect, financial exploitation, physical abuse, psychological abuse, and sexual abuse.
As people age, they generally become less mobile and able to take care of themselves. This is why many elderly people have family members or outside caretakers help them with day-to-day tasks.
However, these same people may fail to properly care for their elder—this is known as neglect. When neglected by a caretaker, the elderly victim may not be provided with enough food or proper medical attention and medication; their bills may not be paid on time or at all; and their living space may be unclean or unsafe. Any and all of these circumstances can severely deteriorate the physical and mental health of an elderly person.
Financial exploitation is another common form of abuse against the elderly. They be victimized by scams (eg: lottery and sweepstakes scams, telemarketing scams, etc.) or similar manipulations perpetrated by strangers. However, more often than not, elderly people are financially exploited by their family members and caretakers.
An abusive caretaker may take advantage of their Power of Attorney over the elder and deliberately mismanage or exploit their finances. The elderly person’s bank account or debit and credit cards may be used by the abusive caretaker without the elderly person’s permission. The abusive caretaker may forge document signatures or open up credit lines in the elderly person’s name. Such forms of exploitation can be financially devastating, as well as emotionally taxing and heartbreaking when carried out by someone the elderly victim trusted.
Elderly people may also be abused physically, psychologically, or sexually by the person who is supposed to be their caretaker.
Their abusive caretaker may hit, slap, or otherwise physically assault and hurt them. They may be demeaned, berated, or socially isolated by their abusive caretaker. Lastly, they may be coerced or forced into unwanted sexual interactions. The abuse may go unnoticed and unreported, often due to the elderly victim feeling ashamed or like they have no resources or support system to rely on.
We want to help victims of abuse in later life know they are not alone, and inform them of all of the kinds of help available to them. If you or anyone you know is experiencing neglect, exploitation, or abuse, we encourage you to call our 24-hour, confidential helpline and speak with an advocate at 1-800-863-9909.
Partners for Peace provides advocacy, legal help, support groups, and other resources to abuse victims of all ages. If necessary, we can help connect you to one of the many elder-specific service providers in the state of Maine, including Legal Services for the Elderly, Maine Council for Elder Abuse Prevention, and the Bureau of Elder and Adult Services.
We see you and we want to help.