During the summer we celebrate National Older Americans Month. We start in May with this time to both honor and celebrate seniors across the country. By making time for this important topic, we can take an important opportunity to raise awareness about the many challenges facing Older Americans.

Celebrating National Older Americans Month brings to light one of the most troubling issues involving senior adults.

The issue is elder abuse.

National Older Americans Month sought to highlight this issue and both combat elder abuse and protect seniors’ rights by promoting groups like the National Center on Elder Abuse. The organization is dedicated to helping senior care networks identify and reduce abuse across the nation, which includes neglect and financial exploitation. The efforts were furthered this summer when, as an international community, we celebrated World Abuse Awareness Day on June 15th

Did you know that adult children of aging parents, and other family members, can play an enormously important role in reducing the scourge of victimization against Older Americans simply by learning more about the issue? Education on what can occur is critical to prevention. Further, it is also vital that all of us learn how to immediately report it to the proper authorities.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, about one-in-ten adults over age 60, have experienced some form of abuse.

Such estimates, however, are perceived to be far too low as studies routinely show that for every reported case there are many more that go unreported.

Elder abuse is broadly defined as the mistreatment or harming of an older person.

It can be physical, emotional or sexual in nature, and involve monetary harm and willful inattention. Signs might include:

  • Unexplained injuries, like bruises, welts, abrasions and broken bones
  • Unusual weight loss, malnutrition or dehydration
  • Isolation, depression, despondence or other distinct changes in behavior
  • Sudden changes in an older adult’s financial situation
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, and poor hygiene

An immediate, proactive measure adult children can take to help protect their aging parents is to ensure that a durable power of attorney is in place. This is a legal document that gives a trusted confidant of the senior adult the legal right to make decisions on his or her behalf. It is one of the most important arrangements adult children of elder parents can make, regardless of whether an entire estate plan is completed. The durability provision further ensures the document will remain valid if the elder loved one becomes mentally incompetent.

We know what a difficult conversation this can be to have as a family. We also know this article may have raised more questions than it answers. Do not wait to schedule a meeting with our office to discuss your questions and plan forward to get the support you need both now and in the future.