Heed warning signs of elder abuse

Thursday, June 13, 2013

We're all urged to report suspected abuse of children -- in fact, it's illegal NOT to tell authorities when we believe a baby, toddler or older is suffering at the hands of an adult or older child.

But children are not the only vulnerable people we may have contact with. A high percentage of Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas residents are of retirement age or older, and the proportion is growing as more and more baby boomers age.

To raise awareness of the danger, the Department of Health and Human Services is observing the eighth annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Friday.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse for 2010, the most recent information available, more than 9 percent of the elderly in the U.S. are abused. The median age of the elderly who are abused is nearly 78 years of age, and two-thirds are female. More than half the victims experienced neglect, 15 percent were physically abused, and 12 percent were financially exploited.

Citizens are encouraged to learn and watch for warning signs of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of elderly and vulnerable adults and speak up for their protection, said Thomas Pristow, director of Children and Family Services. Warning signs include:

* Sudden changes in behavior or finances.

* Physical injuries, dehydration, or malnourishment.

* Extreme withdrawal, depression, or anxiety.

* Absence of basic care or necessities.

* Kept away from others

* Unsanitary living conditions.

* Personal items missing.

"Victims are often afraid to speak out because the abuser is a family member or caregiver on whom they depend," said Vivianne Chaumont, director of Medicaid and Long-Term Care. "Abused elderly and vulnerable adults live in fear of retribution, lack of care, embarrassment and losing their place of residence."

Anyone who observes any of the signs is urged to call the 24-hour toll-free Adult and Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at (800) 652-1999.

The West Central Nebraska Area Agency on Aging in North Platte is the nearest local office on aging, and can provide more information.

To learn more, visit the National Center on Elder Abuse website, www.ncea.aoa.gov or the Adult Protective Services website at http://1.usa.gov/12nmP3V.

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