There are many shocking stories about the way older people have been treated by friends, family members, and even nursing home employees.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), elder abuse can lead to physical injuries – ranging from minor scratches and bruises to broken bones and disabling injuries – and serious, sometimes long-lasting, psychological consequences, including depression and anxiety. For older people, the consequences of abuse can be especially serious and take a longer time to recover.
Approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some estimates range as high as 5 million elders who are abused each year. Victims often become more confused, frail, and unhappy with their circumstances as they are abused and exploited. Older adults, in particular, need advocates, such as elder abuse lawyers, health professionals, and social service agencies, among others.
In addition to the health and social problems linked to elder abuse, older adults are left feeling undervalued and underappreciated, a sobering fact that another human being would deem another human being less than them.
As stated in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, “…all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, which among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Older adults deserve to be treated with dignity, feel loved, and cared for since every life across the age spectrum is precious. If not, ageism (discrimination and stereotyping based on age) will continue to prevail because ageism is linked to elder abuse. Health care professionals can help to revolutionize society through health education, empowerment, and advocacy.
Elder abuse is more common than anyone might think. It is a critical public health issue that results in poor health outcomes and increased mortality among older adults of all races, cultures, sexual orientations, social classes, geographic areas, faith communities, mental capacities, and physical abilities. Until service providers work together to address this problem, elder abuse will continue with devastating societal implications for older adults and their loved ones.
This is part of a series about aging in the twenty-first century.