In a year with many distractions and stressful events, we must not forget that World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15.
Annually, this day highlights the issues of elder abuse and the 10% of adults age 60 and older in the U.S. who are impacted each year. Elder abuse affects an individual’s health --- physical, emotional and psychological --- and increases time spent in healthcare facilities.
Elder abuse is underreported.
According to the Journal of the American Society on Aging, only a fraction of older adults in the U.S. who are subject to elder mistreatment are known to agencies that serve them.
A recent study by the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine indicated that family members were the most-common perpetrators of abuse --- making home the most dangerous place for many vulnerable persons.
We know many abusers use isolation as a tool.
Vulnerable populations like older adults who are socially isolated are at even greater risk for abuse.
Social distancing and stay-at-home orders may have exacerbated isolation for those already at-risk, making them even less connected to the community than they already were and providing a perfect opportunity for abusers to further isolate them.
Overall, there are fewer opportunities to ask for or seek help when victims and their abusers are not leaving home. Complicating the challenge, particularly in today’s stay-at-home driven dynamic, other family members or friends may not visit as frequently and, therefore, may not recognize or even notice the red flags.
For agencies responding to abuse, the pandemic may have modified operations or the layers of support that social service agencies can provide may be diminished meaning that they may not be able to intervene in the same manner that they had.
We can’t do it alone.
We need your eyes and ears to help protect and safeguard those who may be unable to protect themselves. That means the neighbors, friends and family and those who live, work and call this community home.
Our call to action is simple, straightforward and critically important: check on your neighbors, stay in touch with your family, connect with your friends and talk about who may be isolated and at risk.
Reach out. Regularly. If you suspect abuse --- report it.
Editor's note: Mary Lynn Kasunic is president and CEO of the Area Agency on Aging Region One. For information, go to aaaphx.org. To reach the 24-hour senior help line, call 602-264-4357. For the hard of hearing and deaf, text (520) 775-1899 SMS (Short Message Service).