June 13, 2020
Approximately one in 10 Americans aged 60 and over have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some estimates range as high as five million elders who are abused each year, but an overwhelming number of cases of abuse go undetected and untreated. Abuse can happen to anyone—no matter the person’s age, sex, race, religion, or ethnic or cultural background. A caregiver may also be victim of abuse. Older and vulnerable caregivers of persons with dementia are often susceptible to abuse. In many cases, there are ways to address abusive behavior. Caregivers can learn strategies to distance themselves from it emotionally, find support and get respite care.
Elder abuse, including isolation will not stop on its own. Someone else needs to step in and help. Many older people are too ashamed to report mistreatment, or they are afraid the report will get back to the abuser and make the situation worse. The most difficult thing to accept when it comes to the abuse of older adults is how common it is. Knowing how to identify abuse and how to report it can be critical to stopping it and getting that person the care he or she needs.
If you need to report a suspicion of elder abuse, call Florida Abuse Hotline at 1.800.96.ABUSE (1.800.962.2873). Press 1 to report suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation of the elderly or a vulnerable adult. This toll-free number is available 24/7. It is important to report suspected abuse as soon as possible.
The good news is that we can prevent and address the issue of elder abuse. There are many ways to strengthen our social supports through policies, services, and programs that keep us integrated in our communities as we age.
• We can educate ourselves. “Elder Abuse: It’s More than Just Scams,” is a FREE virtual workshop that will provide an overview of how seniors are targeted for financial, psychological and sexual abuse, as well as important information about how to avoid fraud and scams. This event is held each year in conjunction with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The workshop is presented by ElderSource and the Florida Department of Health – Nassau County and will take place on Monday, June 15 from 12 pm to 1:30 pm using Zoom. Please consider registering and inviting others to join. Please visit this link to register.
• We can design and equip community centers to work as intergenerational spaces that allow older people to build relationships and participate in the work, play, and life of our
neighborhoods. In our community, the Nassau County Council on Aging provides a variety of activities, classes, workshops and presentations at their Fernandina Beach and Hilliard Life Centers. Please visit https://www.nassaucountycouncilonaging.org/ for more information.
• We can think about the role of transportation in reducing social isolation and adjust systems so that we can all continue to move throughout our communities as we age. If you or someone you know needs transportation services, please visit the NassauTRANSIT website at https://www.nassaucountycouncilonaging.org/ to see what services you may be eligible to utilize.
• We can figure out new and better ways to arrange and coordinate the teams, agencies, and programs that work specifically with older people. ElderSource serves a seven-county area across Northeast Florida by identifying the needs of elders and caregivers, developing plans to meet those growing needs, contracting with local agencies to deliver services to clients and providing oversight of the contracts to ensure good stewardship of funds and quality services. ElderSource provides many services, like their recent Empower Yourself workshop which addressed strategies to avoid being scammed. More information on programming and services, for both consumers and partner organizations, can be found at https://www.myeldersource.org/.
Locally, the Florida Department of Health in Nassau (http://nassau.floridahealth.gov) is beginning an Aging Friendly initiative to promote active, engaged, and healthy living for people of all ages. If you are interested in becoming involved, please email Mary von Mohr at [email protected] or call at 904.557.9133.
About the Florida Department of Health
The department, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.
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