June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and at The Women’s Center, we know all too well that abuse happens to all genders, all races, and all ages, including older adults.
Each year, 15 – 20% of the adults we see are over the age of 55, and we even serve survivors who are in their 70’s and 80’s. Nationally, 1 in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse. One study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities, meaning the extent of elder abuse could be closer to half of all Americans over the age of 60.
Elder abuse can take the following forms, as defined by the National Council on Aging:
- Physical abuse, or using physical force in an attempt to cause injury
- Neglect, when the adult caregiver fails to provide for the medical, social, or psychological needs of the older adult in their care
- Financial abuse, when someone takes money or property from an older adult without their knowledge, understanding, or consent.
- Psychological abuse, attempting to intimidate, demean, or belittle an older adult by words and actions.
- Sexual abuse, which is any unwanted sexual contact
- Confinement, when an older adult is restrained or isolated, other than for substantiated medical reasons
- Willful deprivation – is defined as denying an older adult medication, medical care, shelter, food, a therapeutic device, or other physical assistance, and exposing that person to the risk of physical, mental, or emotional harm—except when the older, competent adult has expressed a desire to go without such care.
We provide specialized assistance for older adults and have an active partnership with the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources (GWAAR), with grant funding from GWAAR that underwrites support groups for older adults and training for staff.
Some of the ways we tailor services to older adults include:
- Specialized safety planning that accounts for experiences more common later in life, such as daily medications and limited mobility.
- Identifying reliable transportation to appointments and for errands to help achieve independence from an abuser, whether through community referrals or by confirming trustworthy relationships.
- Helping clients reconnect with loved ones and friends, since isolation is often used by abusers as a tactic to maintain power and control.
You can help by being aware of the warning signs of elder abuse:
- Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, or burns.
- Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, or unusual depression.
- Strained or tense relationships; frequent arguments between the caregiver and older adult.
- Sudden changes in financial situations or behavior toward money.
- Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, or unusual weight loss, which can indicate neglect.
- Belittling, threats, or other uses of power and control toward an older adult.
If you notice any of these warning signs, or are an older adult who needs help, please call our 24-Hour Hotline at 262.542.3828 – you’ll be connected immediately with an advocate to help identify resources, provide counseling, or facilitate safety planning.
To report elder abuse, please contact Waukesha County Adult Protective Services at 262.548.7848, from 8:00am-4:30pm, Monday-Friday, or dial 211 after hours (also available at 414.455.1736).
If someone is in immediate danger, call 911.