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Elder abuse happens more than you think. How to spot the signs.


Scams. Shady caregivers. Poor care. Elder mistreatment has many faces — from financial exploitation to physical and emotional abuse. About 10 percent of those 60 and older are reportedly affected by it in the United States. The chances of being abused rise for people who are in poor physical health, have experienced previous traumatic events or have dementia.

Can you spot the signs of elder abuse?

Even if you think you can, the National Center on Elder Abuse is worth an online visit. Part of the U.S. Administration on Aging, the NCEA disseminates information, gathers statistics and funds research on elder mistreatment.

Its website has a wealth of information about a phenomenon experts still struggle to understand. The NCEA says knowledge about elder abuse lags by decades behind knowledge of other forms of violence, such as child abuse and domestic violence. But the issue is critical, especially as more Americans age. By 2030, the Census Bureau projects that 1 in 5 U.S. residents will be nearing retirement age — 78 million people who are 65 and older.

The website has a long list of free publications to help you understand elder mistreatment, such as on how to advocate for elders as a caregiver, spot financial exploitations in nursing homes, and protect yourself from abuse, neglect and exploitation. Information is also available on different demographic groups, such as people of color and people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Elder mistreatment can show up as neglect; red flags include people with dementia who are left unsupervised or people who are not given adequate food or hygiene by their caretakers. Signs of psychological abuse include sudden, unexplained changes in behavior or a caregiver who isolates their charge. Unexplained sexually transmitted infections or bruises and fractures can indicate physical or sexual abuse, and financial exploitation can show up as a vulnerable adult signing paperwork they do not understand or giving control of their money to someone who does not provide for their needs.

Aging doesn’t have to mean abuse — and you can help stop elder mistreatment in its tracks. Consider starting at the NCEA’s website.

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