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Experts provide tips on how to recognize elder abuse

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Posted at 6:44 PM, Jun 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-15 20:44:51-04

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – It’s often an abuse that occurs behind closed doors, within one’s own family. Monday is Elderly Abuse Awareness Day and Community Nursing Services of Salt Lake is educating the public on how to spot signs of abuse in the elderly and how to prevent it from happening.

“You know, we’ve heard it takes a village to raise a child, and, really, it takes a community to protect an elder,” said Debbie Booth from Utah Adult Protective Services.

It’s estimated approximately 10 percent of elderly adults in America suffer from some form of neglect, exploitation or abuse. And the abuser is often times a family member or individual who is close to the person. Community nursing services reports about 95 percent of seniors who are abused are living in a home environment and not in a senior assisted living facility. Social workers are trying to educate people on how to recognize signs of abuse in older adults and how to put an end to it.

“So, important to watch for unexplained bruising, there may be some fractures or welts that are in various stages of healing. Personality changes, like a person suddenly becoming socially isolated that was more gregarious before. They may seem like they have low self-esteem,” explained Kimberly Dansie with Community Nursing Services.

Booth said a common form of abuse in Utah is stolen property or money. Many times a family member will steal money or other possessions from an aging relative.

“And I think it’s hard sometimes to see that, especially when you’re enmeshed in a family situation - it’s really hard to think of your brother that’s taking advantage of mom, or it’s hard to think of the grandchild that keeps asking grandma for money,” Booth said.

When elderly abuse is reported, adult protective services conducts an investigation and looks into ways to protect the victim.

“We will give them options that they can look at and maybe consider when it comes to making them more safe,” Booth said.

Booth said people outside a family who may suspect abuse sometimes don’t report it because they’re afraid of getting involved, but she says it’s important community members watch out for signs of abuse in seniors.

“We tend to think, ‘well, people can make their own choices,’ and while that’s true, but we still need to be really aware of what’s happening and sort of safe-guard, because a lot of people are taken advantage of, unknowingly,” she said.

Utah law mandates anyone who suspects an elderly adult is being abused, neglected or exploited, should immediately notify Adult Protective Services or their local law enforcement. It is confidential and reports can be filed online.

For more information, visit http://daas.utah.gov/adult-protective-services/.