Abuse and neglect of the elderly are serious issues for any society concerned with the well-being of its citizens. According to the New York State Office for the Aging, "between one and two million Americans aged 65 or older have been injured, exploited, or otherwise mistreated by someone" and nearly one in two people with dementia experience some form of abuse by others. As New York’s population ages, incidents of elder abuse can become more widespread. Thanks to the Orange County Office for the Aging and other organizations, both inside and outside government, the Empire State is raising awareness about the serious problem of abuse – and doing something about it. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was launched in 2006 to shine a bright light on the victimization of seniors and how we can prevent abuse. This June Orange County once again recognizes World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and urges you to get the word out and take action to prevent abuse and neglect.
Why are awareness and speaking out so important to ending elder abuse and keeping our seniors safe? Because until very recently, the federal government identified a "paucity of research" in this area. In order to report abuse, neglect or exploitation of the elderly, it’s important to first learn the warning signs. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, physical marks such as bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, burns, and more may indicate mistreatment or abuse. Bed sores due to inattention and sudden changes in finances related to exploitation, a common form of abuse, may also be signs that a senior is being victimized. Victims of abuse too often suffer alone in silence. That’s why it’s necessary to remain alert to the signs of mistreatment at the hands of both strangers and caregivers alike.
How can you get involved to spread the word and prevent future abuse? First, if you witness elder abuse, call the state hotline (1-800-342-3009, option 6), the county Office for the Aging (845-615-3700) or the Orange County Department of Social Services Adult Protective Services Unit (845-291-2800) to report an incident. The National Center on Elder Abuse also recommends you stay in contact with friends and family, neighbors and relatives. Communication is key because it decreases your isolation, a major risk factor in financial and other forms of elder abuse. It will also provide you with an opportunity to talk about your problems and discuss solutions.
Contact the Office for the Aging to identify and access local programs near you that increase socialization and reduce your risk factors for exploitation. Sometimes providing crucial assistance is as simple as being a good neighbor. These programs include food-delivery services such as Big Wheels Deliver Meals. Long-term or community-based care information is also available from New York State and our county website. Next, get involved to educate and strengthen those around you. By volunteering to share your time with other seniors on a project or advocating a cause that’s important to you, you can become a positive forces in the lives of others.
Contact the Office for the Aging today by dialing 845-615-3700 to learn more about World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Together, we can end elder abuse and improve the lives and well-being of all Orange County residents.