The United Nations has designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WWEAD). The first WEAAD was observed in 2012.
The occasion aims to focus global attention on the physical, emotional and financial abuse of elders. It also seeks to understand the challenges and opportunities presented by an aging population. Brought together are senior citizens, their caregivers, national and local government, academics, and the private sector. Ideas are exchanged about how to best reduce incidents of violence towards elders, increase reporting of same and develop elder friendly policies.
For today, allow me to comment on this world-wide dialogue within three categories.
Elder mistreatment (i.e., abuse and neglect) is defined as intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm (whether intended or not) to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person in a trust relationship. This includes failure by a caregiver to satisfy basic needs or to protect from harm. Are you aware that elders who experience abuse have a 300% higher risk of death compared to those not abused? And, direct medical costs associated with violent injuries to older adults are estimated to add over $5.3 billion to annual health expenditures in the U.S.
Would you be surprised that pitched voices and raised volumes are included in the definition of emotional abuse? Those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can be especially prone to yelling and attack. To substantiate, a 2009 study revealed that close to 50% of people with dementia experience some form of abuse. A (2010) study found 47% of participants with dementia had been mistreated by their caregivers.
Major financial exploitation has been self-reported at a rate of 41 per 1,000 people surveyed, which was higher than self-reported rates of emotional harm, physical neglect and sexual abuse combined. The annual financial loss by American victims of elder financial exploitation was estimated at $2.9 billion in 2009. This represented a 12% increase over 2008.
Houston, we have a problem.
No matter how you slice it, elder abuse is a severe issue that can only grow worse (if nothing is done) due to a burgeoning aging population globally. Extreme stress and strain are already present today. What will happen tomorrow?
When I commented upon this alarming reality in my first volume within this genre, Coping with Un-cope-able Parents: LOVING ACTION for Eldercare, the awful statistics received barely a nod.
When I add fuel to the fire via my second volume, Coping with Un-cope-able Systems: ADVOCACY for Eldercare, let’s hope more of the world sits up and takes notice.
As always, your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org or (905) 822-2503.