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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Cheryl Lathrop

Last updated: October 20, 2016 7:26 pm

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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was started on June 15, 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization (WHO) at the United Nations.

Every year, older persons are abused, neglected and exploited. In the U.S., it is estimated that elderly people lose more than $2.6 billion each year due to financial abuse and exploitation. This is money they could have used for their basic needs such as housing, food and medical care. 1

Types of Elder Abuse

What is elder abuse exactly? The WHO says: Elder abuse is a violation of human rights and a significant cause of illness, injury, loss of productivity, isolation and despair. It can happen to anyone in any demographic. Every year an estimated 5 million older Americans are victims. 2

Research suggests that elder abuse is significantly underidentified and underreported. As few as 1 in 14 cases come to the attention of authorities. 3

It such an invisible problem because it usually occurs behind closed doors.

Abuse can include: physical abuse, neglect, emotional or psychological abuse, financial abuse and exploitation, sexual abuse, and abandonment. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) has a fact sheet on the Red Flags of Abuse. 4

Elder Abuse Can Happen Anywhere

Where can elder abuse happen? Anywhere. Abuse can occur in the home, by a family member, or trusted caregiver.

It can also occur in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other institutional settings. Risk factors include: dementia, mental health issues, social isolation and poor physical health. 5

Many elders end up in care facilities due to a loss of mobility. This can happen when they need assistance due to illness or surgical procedures.

One such surgery that often results in placement in a care facility for the short- or long-term is a hip replacement (arthroplasty).

Hip replacements are often needed due to osteoarthritis, but they can also be required after a fall. In some cases, the original replacement surgery isn’t successful, and a further hip revision surgery may be needed.

This may extend the time that older individuals are residing outside the home. They may be in the care of people other than family members, who do not know them as well, and may face additional risks from an unfamiliar environment.

Fighting Elder Abuse

WEAAD’s purpose is to provide an opportunity for communities to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons. The organization aims at raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect. This is an important public health and human rights issue.

WEAAD serves as a call-to-action for individuals, organizations and communities to raise awareness about elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.

To join others in observing WEAAD you can:

  • Develop an educational program or press conference
  • Visit an isolated senior
  • Submit an article to your local newspaper to help create awareness
  • Participate in social media on Facebook

Try not to limit your involvement to just one day. Read the WEADD’s How To Answer Those Tough Questions About Elder Abuse to learn what you can do to get involved today and every day.

Take a stand to protect our seniors. Report elder abuse. As always, if someone is in a life- threatening situation or immediate danger, call 911 or local law enforcement authorities.

If you are the senior, try to protect yourself from abuse and neglect. Reading the NCEA Protect Yourself fact sheet can help.

  1. http://www.aoa.gov/AoA_programs/Elder_Rights/EA_Prevention/weaad.aspx 

  2. http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/Get_Involved/Awareness/WEAAD/index.aspx 

  3. National Elder Abuse Incidence Study. (1998.) Washington, D.C.: National Center on Elder Abuse at American Public Human Services Association. 

  4. http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/Resources/Publication/docs/NCEA_RedFlags_web508.pdf  

  5. http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/Get_Involved/Awareness/WEAAD/docs/WEAAD-2015-Factsheet-How-To-Answer-Tough-Questions.pdf