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College of Human Ecology

Across the globe, elder abuse is top-of-mind June 15

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

By Katie Allen

Elder Abuse Awareness DayAccording to the United Nations, which recognizes World Elder Abuse Awareness Day June 15, about 4 to 6 percent of elderly people have experienced some form of maltreatment at home. This maltreatment may not only lead to serious physical injuries, but it can also cause long-term psychological consequences.

Additionally, the U.N. reports that the global population of people 60 years of age and older will rise to about 1.2 billion by 2025, and the incidence of abuse in seniors is predicted to increase as well.

Several different signs indicate that elder abuse is occurring, said Erin Yelland, assistant professor in the School of Family Studies and Human Services at Kansas State University. Signs of physical abuse include chronic bruising, agitation and aggression toward a caregiver. Sexual abuse is also a concern in older populations, which is more prominent than people might think.

The most reported form of abuse among seniors, however, is financial abuse, which is sometimes called exploitation. Financial abuse occurs when the abuser takes belongings or funds from the elder and uses them illegally or improperly, often for personal gain, said Yelland, an aging specialist with K-State Research and Extension.

“Last year, it’s estimated that financial elder abuse cost older Americans $2.9 billion in lost revenues, lost incomes or from things being stolen,” she said.

This has become more common with the internet, Yelland said, which provides another avenue for criminals to access bank accounts. Close friends, children and grandchildren of older individuals may be able to guess passwords and easily get into accounts without permission.

“We also see troubled individuals who will go into an elder’s home, take that person’s belongings and sell them for their own financial gain,” she said. “Of course that is also financial abuse.”

For those elders who are dependent on medical care, neglect is another form of abuse. Many times caregivers can become overwhelmed and “burnt out” from their responsibilities, and they decide to give up.

“This can mean not providing elders with food, shelter and water,” Yelland said. “It can also mean not providing them with their medications or the medical care they may need.”

Further, abandonment by the caregiver could be an eventual result of chronic neglect. This could mean abandonment for a day, several days or even permanent abandonment, she said.

“It’s important that the caregivers are taking good care of themselves, too,” Yelland said. “Then they can take better care of who they are caregiving for.”

*To read this entire article, visit KSRE News.

*To listen to Yelland's radio interview, visit Sound Living, episode date June 10, 2016.

This article was posted on Wednesday, June 15, 2016, and is filed under Center on Aging, College News, Family Studies & Human Services, K-State Family Center.