Family Smarts!

The first and most important step toward preventing elder abuse is to recognize that no one — of whatever age — should be subjected to violent, abusive, humiliating or neglectful behavior. In addition to promoting this social attitude, we can take positive steps such as educating people about elder abuse, increasing the availability of respite care, promoting increased social contact and support for families with dependent older adults.

Formulating prevention and intervention efforts requires an understanding of roles and responsibilities within the family. Education is the cornerstone of preventing elder abuse. Because most abuse occurs in the home by family members or caregivers, there needs to be a concerted effort to educate our families about the special needs and problems of older adults and the risk factors for abuse.

What you can do as a concerned family member.

Pop in for unexpected visits! Call and visit often. Watch for warning signs that might indicate elder abuse. Take a look at the elder’s medications. Does the amount in the vial jive with the date of the prescription?                      Watch for possible financial abuse. Ask the elder if you may scan bank accounts and credit card statements for unauthorized transactions. Thoroughly screen any agency about their staff and of course any privately hired caregiver! Please visit our website for resources and questions to ask when seeking outside help. (

Make sure your loved ones financial and legal affairs are in order. If they aren’t, seek professional help to get them in order. Keeping in touch with family and to prevent your loved one from becoming isolated may help prevent them from being afraid to talk about a situation or potentially abusive situation. When older people are regarded as insignificant, society fails to recognize the importance of assuring dignified, supportive and non-abusive life circumstances for every older person.

If you are unhappy with the care you’re receiving, whether it’s in your own home, or in a care facility, speak up. Tell someone you trust and ask that person to report the abuse, neglect, or substandard care to an elder abuse helpline or long-term care ombudsman, or make the call yourself. Do not put the older person in a more vulnerable position by confronting the abuser yourself unless you have the loved one’s permission and are in a position to help them immediately by moving him or her to a safe place.  Never be afraid to express your concerns about the quality of care your loved one is receiving! Quality care = Quality of life.


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