The Iowa Department on Aging is trying to make everyone aware of possible abuse of the elderly. Department spokesperson, Machelle Shaffer, says elder abuse is the “abuse, neglect and financial exploitation” of anyone who is age 60 or older. And they are urging people to educate themselves about the problem. “And to share what they learn with others, to report any concerns and to get involved in community prevention efforts, and make a long-term commitment to reach out to those who’re vulnerable. They may be our friends, our neighbors, our family members who’re older,” Shaffer says.
National data shows one in 13 people over the age 60 report some type of abuse. Shaffer says you can get involved without intruding on someone’s life. “People want their independence, they don’t want to have people impede on that, but it’s okay to ask questions and to offer help, or to just be a good listening ear,” Shaffer says. “And look for signs, look for some warning signs that may be signs of elder abuse. Things where their personality may have a drastic unexplained change. It could be self-neglect as well. They don’t seem to have any money, or don’t know where their money is.” There are other signs a person may be suffering abuse or exploitation.
“Their responses to questions may seem unreasonable or unlikely. They withdrawal from their usual activities, and there may be financial transitions that occur with their bank account that unexplained or unnormal for their pattern,” according to Shaffer. “So there are ways to ask questions that don’t impede on their independence in any way.” Shaffer says there are ways to help people.
“Obviously if someone is in immediate danger they can call 9-1-1, otherwise they can go to our website to find out more about the signs of elder abuse and how to prevent it. Go to www.iowaaging.gov, or they can call toll free, 800-532-3213, again that’s 800-532-3213,” Shaffer says. Many people now live miles away from parents or other elderly relatives. Shaffer says you can still help them from afar. She says if you can’t be there, get to know a neighbor and have them check in on them, or talk with a member of the clergy and have them check. “And call often, call often and keep those lines of communication open, that’s very important,” Shaffer says. She says staying engaged can help you spot when things don’t seem right and you can help the person who might be undergoing elder abuse.