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Vulnerable Adult and Elder Abuse Awareness Month:
Know the signs of Elder Abuse

For release: Immediate    May 06, 2011
Contact: Lori Walston, (919) 733-9190

RALEIGH — The image is not pretty. The examples may cause discomfort, and victims may not realize they need help. Elder abuse takes many forms and can sometimes be difficult to recognize.

Each year, more than 2 million vulnerable and older adults across the nation are victims of abuse, neglect and exploitation. Governor Bev Perdue has proclaimed May 6 through June 20 as Vulnerable Adult and Elder Abuse Awareness Month in North Carolina. This timeframe spans the Mother’s Day and Father’s Day weekends.

“Protecting our vulnerable and older adults from abuse, neglect and exploitation is the responsibility of all our citizens,” said Dennis Streets, Division of Aging and Adult Services director. “Learning to recognize the signs of abuse and neglect is important to the well-being of seniors and vulnerable adults and helps them enjoy their lives with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

Research shows that older adults who are abused, neglected and exploited are three times more likely to die within 10 years than those who are not. According to recent testimony given at the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging (testimony can be viewed at aging.senate.gov/hearing_detail.cfm?id=331550& ), elder abuse is grossly underreported because vulnerable and older adults who are being abused find it difficult to tell anyone due to shame and fear. Elder abuse affects men and women of all ethnic backgrounds and social status; it occurs in private residences and in facilities.

In 2010, North Carolina's 100 county departments of social services received more than 18,000 reports of abuse, neglect or exploitation of vulnerable and older adults. Reports are made by doctors and other health care professionals and by family members and concerned citizens in our communities.

Most reported elder abuse in North Carolina (85 percent) happens to adults older than 59 who live alone or with family members, while the remainder happens in facilities or shelters. The most common form of mistreatment is neglect, with 69 percent of the cases involving self-neglect, where victims are unable to care for themselves adequately.

Anyone who suspects that a vulnerable or older adult needs protection is required by North Carolina law (General Statute 108A-102) to report this information to the adult protective services intake unit at the department of social services in the county where the adult resides.

Signs of elder abuse may include:

  • Bruises, burns, cuts, scratches
  • Malnutrition
  • Untreated medical condition(s)
  • Unsafe or unsanitary housing
  • Mental anguish and distress
  • Mistrust toward others
  • Mismanaged property or savings
  • Inability to provide needed care.

What can you do to help raise awareness about elder abuse?

  • Don’t ignore this problem. It’s not going away.
  • Report suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation to the adult protective services intake unit in the North Carolina county where the adult lives. Contact information for county departments of social services is available at: www.ncdhhs.gov/dss/local
  • Volunteer in local programs that provide assistance and support for vulnerable and older adults in your community and at long-term care facilities.
  • Educate yourself, family and community about elder abuse and other issues by visiting www.ncdhhs.gov/aging