Respect Your Elders – Stop Abuse


Widespread news stories have already reported the concerning rise of domestic violence cases due to coronavirus lockdown measures and stay-at-home orders. But many older adults are at risk of domestic violence as well, as they are isolated from families and loved ones due to the pandemic.

The month of June is typically dedicated to World Elder Abuse Awareness in the hopes of preventing the mistreatment of and violence against older people. As the population of Americans aged 65 and over is expected to double by 2050, older adults are at risk of abuse, neglect and exploitation.

SAFE: Stop Abuse of Elders (SAFE), a program of CHANA, teaches professionals and community members about recognizing and responding to elder abuse. The first program of its kind in Baltimore, SAFE brings together social workers, lawyers and therapists to address elder abuse in Northwest Baltimore and beyond.

Jacke L. Schroeder, LCSW-C, Director of SAFE, reminds us of this growing epidemic and shares helpful tips and information on how we can prevent elder abuse in our community.

 

What is elder abuse?

Elder Abuse takes many forms: physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual, digital, neglect, and financial exploitation. Often multiple forms occur at the same time called poly-victimization.

 

Biggest misconceptions about elder abuse?

There are several misconceptions:

  • Most cases of elder abuse happen in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. 
  • Elder abuse does not happen in our Jewish community.
  • It only happens to women. 
  • You can always tell who is being abused. 
  • If elder abuse occurs, it is only a one-time thing. 
  • If it is that bad, the person would just leave.

The reality is, elder abuse happens in all communities – to people with high socioeconomic status, to men and women of all cultures, races and religion. Approximately 1 in 10 older adults is a victim of elder abuse. Two thirds of elder abuse cases are perpetrated by adult children, grandchildren, or spouses. Yet, only 1 in 24 cases is reported.

 

How big is this problem in our own community?

CHANA is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Before CHANA, no one believed that domestic violence was happening in our community.  We are with elder abuse now, where we were 25-30 years ago with domestic violence. 

Approximately 5,800 older adult live along the Park Heights corridor. That means, on any given day, 580 people are being abused right in our own backyard. Elder abuse is a hidden epidemic, a public health and moral problem.

 

What are the red flags?

  • Look for signs of poor hygiene if your loved one always took pride in their appearance.
  • Unexplained or frequent injuries—never let them go without full and total explanation; injuries can be a huge indicator of neglect.
  • Overdue bills, lack of awareness of expenses, suddenly worried about money.
  • Fear, anxiety, depression, withdrawal.
  • Untreated medical problems.
  • Weight loss.

 

What can we do to protect our loved ones?

Four things:

  • Believe that it could happen to your loved ones.
  • Learn about the types of elder abuse and the signs.
  • In this COVID era, check in on older adults – frequently.
  • Don’t be a bystander — if you feel like something isn’t right, if you hear or see something that you know isn’t right, say something. Ask the person in private, “do you feel safe?”

SAFE is dedicated to helping people who have experienced elder abuse find safety and healing. Through counseling, consultation, legal advocacy, support groups and shelter, SAFE provides a confidential and supportive environment for victims, while educating communities as part of the movement to end elder abuse. Learn more at chanabaltimore.org.

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