Many of us do not realize what an epidemic elder abuse has become.
Unfortunately, new research tells us that one in ten Older Americans over the age of 60 has experienced some form of abuse. Abuse can happen to anyone regardless of race, religious beliefs, age, or a myriad of other factors, and it happens all too frequently.
Perhaps, what is even more concerning is that research shows us that in over 60% of reported cases the elder abuse originates with a trusted individual.
This can be a spouse, a family member, an adult child, a paid caregiver or anyone in a position of trust with the senior. We find that this reality weighs heavily in the minds of many of the children of aging parents we work with because their parents and grandparents have retired to Florida and they cannot be present on a daily basis to physically check in.
What can we do as children of aging parents and grandparents to help ensure that they are protected from elder abuse of any kind?
Whether it is financial, physical, neglect, or even sexual abuse, what are the tools we need to help us create a future where our aging loved ones can live in a protected environment? While we know there is no easy answer, let us share with you four of the tools we tell our clients, friends, family members, and the professionals we work with to utilize as we celebrate World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and throughout the year.
- Communication Plan. Do you have a communication plan with your parents and grandparents right now? Although it may seem like a plan to communicate is unnecessary, routine communication can help eliminate the risk of elder abuse. Much of the abuse against seniors occurs as a result of increased isolation. Whether this is because he or she lives alone, has a more difficult time using technology to stay connected, or is more of an introvert, ask your loved ones to stay in touch with you. Simply asking who the senior is meeting with throughout the week or what he or she has been up to, can greatly reduce the chance for abuse.
- Family Support Network. It takes a village, and the statement includes family members who are trying to care for aging loved ones. Ask your relatives for help in communicating with your aging loved ones. Nephews, nieces, even cousins, can all jump in to help shelter the senior from exploiters as well as preventing isolation issues. Ask all of your loved ones to take an active role. Even a simple fifteen minute phone call every week or a post of photos on Facebook can make a world of difference for the senior. Don’t forget you can use caregiving apps to link up together and share important information.
- Local Support Network. Especially when your loved ones do not live in the same city or county as you do, you need to think about how you will communicate and stay involved. Ask for help from those who are local. This could include support groups, friends, healthcare providers, clergy, or even neighborhood groups. When you are with your loved ones, ask to meet these individuals so that you may put a face to the name and contact information.
- Estate planning for the elder’s goals. Remember, you want to make sure you have the legal authority to help your aging loved ones in a crisis. Unfortunately waiting until the crisis happens is not the right course of action as not only may your options be limited but you may not be able to get the support you need. Plan together now for who your Florida parents and grandparents want as their decision maker for health care and financial issues. You can share these goals with your Florida elder law attorney to get the support you need.
Remember, in a crisis, time is of the essence. If you suspect elder abuse is taking place, do not wait to report it. In Florida, you may use this link to learn more about how to report elder abuse. Bear in mind, you do not have to prove it is occurring to report it. We know how tough this conversation can be and encourage you to reach out to our experienced team right here in Tampa, Florida, to help you with this issue or any of your elder care needs.