“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” Mahatma Gandhi made that statement in the early 1900s, right at the start of the 20th Century. Who are those most vulnerable members? Certainly, they include children, the mentally and physically disabled, and our aged population. Today, 21 years into the 21st Century, Gandhi’s words come back to haunt us as we enter World Elder Abuse Month this June. A decade ago, The United Nations designated June 15th as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day to raise mindfulness and knowledge of elder abuse and the various forms it can manifest which include financial, emotional, and physical abuse.
Experts have identified seven types of elder abuse to watch out for: physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, neglect, abandonment, financial abuse, and self-neglect. Financial abuse strikes a particular nerve with me since that is what happened to my 94-year-old grandmother Beverley Schottenstein. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, elders are more willing to self-report financial exploitation than other forms of abuse. They are often fearful to report physical, emotional, sexual abuse, and neglect due to the possibility of being harmed. Most elder abuse victims are dependent on their abusers to meet their basic needs, placing the abused in an extremely vulnerable position, fearful of retaliation. Like what happened to my grandmother, most acts of abuse are committed by family members (40% adult children, 15% spouse, 38% other family members). In fact, only 7% of elder abuse cases are committed by non-family members. Read more