Older Americans Month: What is elder abuse?

Every year FRC provides information relating to Older Americans Month which is observed during the month of May. As I read reliable resources regarding elder abuse, I learned that there are diverse definitions for the term “elder abuse.” There is no definitive definition. Laws vary from state-to-state, county-to-county, and at the federal level. Until there is a shared definition in common, it will be impossible to collect data, to manage the problems associated with elder abuse, which falls twenty years behind efforts in child abuse and domestic violence.

In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in 2016, the first step to defining elder abuse so that the needed policies are established to make research possible without exploiting those who need protection from exploitation by perpetrators who isolate, batter, neglect and otherwise abuse the elderly. How will everything be managed honoring confidentiality, with honor and dignity?

“The development and use of uniform definitions and recommended core data elements is an important first component of a larger process addressing data collection … Their use may move the EA prevention field closer to … provide a stronger basis for evaluating population level prevention and intervention strategies and setting prevention priorities,” advise the writers of the CDC Uniform Definitions Report.

Perpetrators are most likely adult children or spouses, are more likely to be male, ages 30-59, have a history of substance abuse, have mental health or physical health problems, a history of problems with police, are socially isolated, unemployed or have financial problems or are experiencing major stress, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.

Risk factors for elder abuse include: Low social support, dementia, experiencing previous traumatic events like domestic violence and interpersonal relations, functional impairment and poor physical health. More women than men are battered. Also on the risk list are living with a large number of household members other than a spouse, living with a lower income or in poverty with limited or no economic resources and financial exploitation.

Those with dementia are more vulnerable to abuse because of their impaired memory, impaired ability to communicate and judge. As the dementia progresses the risk of all kinds of abuse rises.

As we age, preparing for life after raising a family, retiring and adventuring for the rest of our lives, there are some very important things to make sure we are doing. The theme for 2019’s Older Americans Month says it clearly: “Connect, Create, Contribute.”

Connect: With friends, family and services that support your participation. You may be disabled and need transportation assistance. It’s out there. You may have health issues that limit you. But there is something out there for everyone. The Agency on Aging can point you in the right direction. Maybe card club isn’t something you’d be interested in, but there are others around you who enjoy sharing something: book club, music study, Bingo, bird watching, gardening. Hook up with them and share your interests.

Create: Engage in activities that promote learning, health, and personal enrichment. There is so muchto learn about! Interesting things that you have never had time to even think about while you were busy working, raising the children.

Contribute: Use yourtime, talent and life experience to benefit others. Service organizations, churches, nursing facilities, and other places will welcome your skills and talents and it’s been said that you find yourself when you help others. Stay connected with people. Stay active.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded in part by Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.