A few months had passed since Dyllan saw her elderly neighbor, Bianca. When Dyllan mentioned this to her roommates, they shared that had heard the Bianca’s granddaughter, who had recently moved in with her, yelling at her grandmother and calling her “stupid.” Outraged that someone would yell at her neighbor, Dyllan waited until the granddaughter left for work and knocked on Bianca’s door. She was shocked to see Bianca. The once spry energetic senior now seemed gaunt and frail. Dyllan asked Bianca if she was ok, and Bianca broke down crying. She told her young friend Dyllan that her granddaughter had been berating her on a daily basis, telling her that she was a burden and worthless. Bianca had also been withholding food and medications. Dyllan consoled Bianca and told her that she would help her.

As the population ages and the number of seniors increase, elder abuse is a growing issue. One in ten Americans age 60+ experiences abuse each year, and many experience it in multiple forms. Elder abuse is often referred to as “silent abuse” because many times the abuse is not reported or observed by others and our seniors continue to suffer.

It may be difficult to talk about abuse and neglect, but awareness is the first step toward reducing the rate of abuse and neglect that our elders experience. By recognizing the forms and signs of abuse, together as a community we can help combat elder abuse.

Sometimes the signs of elder abuse are physically apparent: bruises and other physical injuries, broken eyeglasses, signs of being restrained (marks on wrists), unusual weight loss, or unsanitary living conditions.  A caretaker’s behavior, such as belittling of the senior or the caregiver’s refusal to allow you to see the elder, can also be a sign of possible abuse.

Sudden changes in the senior’s financial condition, items missing from the senior’s household, suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, or insurance policies can signal financial abuse.

Becoming aware of and watching out for the signs of elder abuse and neglect is one way we can work together to make our community a safer place for seniors. As with a Dyllan and Bianca, a simple conversation or asking a senior if they are ok can save a life and end the abuse they are experiencing.

If you suspect that an elderly or dependent adult is being neglected or abused physically, emotionally, or financially, please call Adult Protective Services toll-free: 1 (844) 751-6729or report it online at https://www.reporttoaps.org/.

June 15th is Elder Abuse Awareness Day, a time to reflect on what we are doing as a community to support people who are elderly or have disabilities. We can all take part in helping protect their health, safety, and rights.

Family Service Agency works with Legal Aid Foundation and Adult Protective Services to help seniors work through issues of abuse. Visit fsacares.org/elder-abuse for more information.