Aging individuals who have restricted mobility, limited means, or disintegrating mental abilities need and deserve special care. Nursing homes, hired caregivers, and family members often step up and take on the role of caring for these individuals. But, the people who are supposed to take care of the elderly often take advantage of them.
Elder abuse affects five million Americans a year, according to an estimate from Health and Human Services. All of those people are suffering at the hand of another person; similar to the way some children suffer from abusive parents or guardians.
It is most commonly thought that elderly people are swindled out of their remaining money, but while this is a form of serious abuse, elder abuse also includes “physical, sexual, and psychological abuse as well as neglect and abandonment.”
According to an article from Pacific Standard, in order for this huge problem to be properly addressed, there must be an improvement in public awareness, studying brain health issues, and supplying stronger support to caregivers of the elderly. And it appears as if these actions are finally being taken.
The Department of Justice has jumped on the bandwagon to attract attention to elder abuse by introducing a training program for civil legal aid lawyers to represent elderly clients. Some states require people to report suspected elder abuse by law, similar to reporting the suspected abuse of a child.
Other groups are working on even more complete demonstrations of the need for elder rights. According to the article, the John Marshall Law School, Roosevelt University, and East China University of Political Science and Law organized a conference to draft “The Chicago Declaration on the Rights of Older Persons.”
In addition to introducing measures to put a halt to elder abuse, this declaration also outlines policies to fight age discrimination in the workplace and give the elderly more voice in their medical decisions. A direct quote from the declaration says “older persons have the right to protection from medical abuses, including forced hospitalization on the basis of age, and nonconsensual medical experimentation.”
This declaration is one of the first attempts to bring serious legal attention to elder abuse and elder rights, and was drafted broadly in order to expand the definition of who falls under its protection as well as who is responsible for protection.
This is the first step on the long road to stop elder abuse. The best that anyone can do right now is report any suspicion of elder abuse, and spread awareness of the warning signs. Check out our infographic on the common signs of elder abuse for more information about what to look out for, and share it with family and friends to spread the word.