Valley Voices: Prevent elder abuse, spread awareness |

Valley Voices: Prevent elder abuse, spread awareness

Doreen Constantine
Vail CO, Colorado

Unfortunately, thousands of elderly Americans are victims of abuse each year in their own homes, in the homes of their families and even in facilities designed for their care. It is a problem that is becoming more prevalent and is a growing concern. By the year 2030, there will be 70 million people age 60 or older, which is approximately 20 percent of the population. People 85 and older currently represent the fastest growing segment of the elderly population.

It has been estimated that as many as 10 percent of older adults are victimized by elder abuse. However, only one in eight abuse incidents is reported. Many service professionals who work with the elderly suspect that abuse, neglect and financial exploitation is so prevalent that it represents a national crisis. Elder abuse takes place predominantly where the elder person lives and at the hands of people in positions of trust, such as family members or caregivers.

Even if an elderly person is being abused or neglected, it is very possible that they are too embarrassed, proud, or disabled to come forward, and they continue to suffer in silence. This being the case, it is important to watch for warning signs of elder abuse and neglect. These can include unexplained bruises or scars, unusual behavior by the elder, being denied contact with the elderly individual by the caregiver, over-medication or under-medication, malnutrition or dehydration, unpaid bills, changes in wills, powers of attorney or ownership titles.

As an elder, making sure financial and legal affairs are in order can prevent abuse. Elders should stay active; the more a person is isolated, the greater the risk of abuse. Keeping in touch with family, friends and the community is a good step toward prevention. The encouragement of closer and positive contact between generations will also foster positive attitudes toward our older adults, thus combating ageism and disempowerment and promoting zero-tolerance of any abuse or neglect. Older adults should feel enabled to act for themselves and on their own behalf, to exercise their rights and advocate for their own interests.

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The day was established in 2006 in support of the United Nations International Plan of Action, which recognizes the significance of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue.

Eagle County Adult Services provides nutrition, health and wellness and social programs in Eagle, Minturn and El Jebel. For more information, or to receive a newsletter with schedules at each program site, call 970-328-1005. Caregiver support groups are held twice each month, in Eagle as well as Avon, for family members or friends who are providing assistance to people with dementia or any illness that requires ongoing help with daily living.

For more information about the support groups or to make a report of abuse, call 970-328-1483. If you suspect that someone is in imminent danger call 911 for immediate help.

Doreen Constantine is Eagle County’s adult services caseworker. E-mail your guest column to

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