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Sentinel : Elder Abuse Awareness | Keystone Elder Law – Mechanicsburg, PA

June 15 is Elder Abuse Awareness Day. You might wonder, “Do we really need a day for this?” While it might be easier to pretend elder abuse does not happen, in real life it does occur. The more we are aware of what elder abuse is, the more we will be able to help our neighbors, friends, and loved ones who may become victims of elder abuse. The first thing to do is to get an understanding of what elder abuse is. The different types of abuse that fall under this general umbrella are listed below:

• Physical abuse- inflicting pain or injury on a senior adult
• Sexual abuse- non-consensual sexual contact of any kind
• Neglect- the failure of a responsible party to provide a senior adult with food, shelter, health care, or protection from other harm
• Financial exploitation- the use of a senior adult’s income and/or assets for the benefit of someone other than the senior adult without the senior’s knowledge or consent
• Emotional Abuse- mental anguish caused by threats, humiliation, or other verbal or non-verbal means
• Abandonment- desertion of an individual who is responsible for a vulnerable senior adult
• Self-neglect- the failure of an older adult to perform the self-care tasks necessary for one’s health and safety

Unfortunately, in many cases of elder abuse, the abuser is a caregiver for the older person. Since family members are often the caregivers, this means a family member may be the abuser. In some cases it may be intentional, but it may also be the result of the caregiver’s inability to handle the stress of prolonged caregiving. In the latter case both the abuser and the abused need help finding additional support. The older person may be hesitant to report or confirm the abuse out of fear that they will lose the necessary help they receive from the caregiver. In other cases the older person may not want to get the caregiver, especially if it is a family member, in legal trouble. It is important for the older person to understand that the only way the abusive situation can be improved is by informing the local Adult Protective Unit of the abuse.

Now you may be thinking, “Alright, I know the different kinds of abuse, but how do I recognize when it is happening?” Fortunately, the federal Administration on Aging has published some warning signs of elder abuse. Just because someone has one or more of the warning signs does not mean abuse has occurred. However, these signs give us an idea of when a professional assessment may be needed. The Administration on Aging warning signs of elder abuse are listed below.

• Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment
• Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse
• Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse
• Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation
• Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect
• Behaviors such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by caregivers, or by others, are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse
• Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person are also signs that abuse may be occurring

While it is not your job to determine if abuse has occurred, it is the job of all of us to let the appropriate people know if we see signs that abuse may be happening. Do not expect to receive feedback from the Adult Protective Unit that investigates elder abuse because that information is confidential, but you can, however, take satisfaction in knowing you have done your part to protect someone who may be a victim of elder abuse. The places to report elder abuse are listed below:

• Adams County Office for the Aging (717-334-9296 or 1-800-548-3240)
Cumberland County Aging and Community Services (717-240-6110)
• Dauphin County Area Agency on Aging (1-866-SAFE-111 or 1-866-723-3111)
• Franklin County Area Agency on Aging (1-800-642-6990)
• Perry County Area Agency on Aging ((717-582-5128 from 8AM to 4PM Monday through Friday; 717-582-4311 for all other times)
• York County Area Agency on Aging (717-771-9610)
PA Elder Abuse Hotline (1-866-623-2137)
If you would like more detailed information about elder abuse, a helpful website I have found is
Under “Mental Health Topics” click “Abuse
Under “Learn About” click on “Elder Abuse and Neglect”
After you finish reading that entry, go back and click on “Reporting Elder Abuse”)
By increasing our vigilance, we can increase the protection from abuse for senior adults in our communities.

John Reese
Elder Care Coordinator