On the frontline to prevent elder abuse

Proclamations recently signed by the mayors of Camas and Washougal recognize the upcoming World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. It’s a time to put the spotlight on efforts to encourage all citizens to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of Camas seniors, while treating them with dignity, respect and kindness.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day’s primary focus is to educate the public about the mistreatment of the nation’s senior citizens. It’s an issue that isn’t often talked about, but according to statistics continues to get worse and worse, every day.

According to the Administration for Community Living and the National Center on Elder Abuse, “Every year an estimated 5 million older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Experts believe that for every case of elder abuse or neglect reported, as many as 23 cases go unreported.” Often, the mistreatment is conducted by someone the senior citizen knows and trusts.

Education is a key to protecting those who truly need it most. ACL describes members of community organizations, churches and small businesses including banks, pharmacies and grocery stores, senior centers and community centers, as being on the “frontline” in this effort. These people interact with senior citizens every day, and as such are the ones who can recognize when there might be an issue and take appropriate action.

The World Health Organization describes elder abuse as a violation of human rights and a significant cause of illness, injury, loss of productivity, isolation and despair. It’s a situation most of us wouldn’t wish on anyone, and it’s a tragedy that it is happening to the community’s most vulnerable.

With education and awareness, elder abuse can and should be successfully addressed and often prevented.