The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) – the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families and caregivers, is joining with communities and organizations across the globe to raise awareness on elder abuse for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day this June 15th.
With the Hispanic older adult population expected to double by 2050, it is crucial to raise awareness on issues affecting this diverse community. It is estimated that there are between 820,000 and 2.5 million cases of elder abuse reported every year. Unfortunately, for every incident reported, there are many older adults that suffer in silence. There are also some factors that keep the abuse of Latino older adults in the shadows, and they are all the more reason on why raising awareness is so important. These factors may include reliance on the family, the cultural value of marriage and loyalty to spouse, language barriers and immigration status.
Because elder abuse takes several shapes and impacts important areas of older adults’ lives, it is an issue that NHCOA is quite aware of and attentive to, especially as this segment of the population grows. For this reason, NHCOA strives to offer older adults a channel through which they are not only heard, but can acquire the tools to move from airing concerns to solving problems and advocating for change. This channel of involvement includes our civic engagement trainings, the National Hispanic SMP and Leaves that Pay. We also promote wellness among the community through programs such as the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative and Vacunémonos (Let’s get Vaccinated), sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Salud y Bienestar (Health and Well-Being) supported by the Walmart Foundation. These programs bridge a communication gap that often occurs with older adults, which can create opportunities for elder abuse.
In conjunction with the programs we offer, NHCOA is working to improve the Older Americans Act to ensure that service providers that respond to elder abuse do so in a culturally and linguistically competent manner.
Abuse is truly more than just harm, and we encourage you to recognize the warning signs, for abuse can take several forms:
– Emotional Abuse happens when older adults are intimidated or scared to do the things they enjoy doing. No one should have to live in fear or feel threatened.
What to look for: changed eating pattern, fear, passivity, isolated from family
– Sexual Abuse is any kind of sexual contact that a person does not want to make.
What to look for: torn or stained clothing, reported abdominal pain
– Physical Abuse is when someone causes pain or injury to another person. Older adults deserve only the best treatment. Physical abuse can have long lasting effects and should be reported immediately.
What to look for: unexplained falls or injuries, signs of physical restraint
– Abandonment happens when the person that is meant to care for an older adult avoids this responsibility. Latino older adults have spent their lives caring for others. They should receive the care of their loved ones when they need it the most.
What to look for: poor hygiene, lost weight, malnourishment
– Financial Abuse happens when people pressure or convince older adults to give them money. Older adults have worked hard for a lifetime, their money belongs to them, and they deserve to spend it the way they want to.
What to look for: irregular bank withdrawals, lack of affordable amenities
NHCOA’s National Hispanic SMP encourages Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers to become volunteers and spread Medicare fraud prevention awareness in their respective communities. Every year, older adults lose about $2.6 billion dollars or more due to financial abuse and exploitation, which includes Medicare fraud. Through the National Hispanic SMP, older adults and younger generations not only learn about Medicare fraud, but are empowered to spread the word about how these scams abuse older adults and share this important message with their communities.
“Addressing elder abuse, like any issue confronting older adults, is a family affair within the Hispanic community. Everyday, NHCOA strives to be that voice for the nation’s Hispanic older adults. We invite you to join us in raising awareness on elder abuse, an issue that affects millions of older adults every year,” said Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO of NHCOA.
If you believe an older adult is being abused, the National Domestic Violence Hotline has Spanish speaking assistants available around the clock at 1-800-799-SAFE.
The National Center on Elder Abuse has a list of organizations to contact in your state at 1-800-677-1116 and at: http://ncea.aoa.gov/Stop_Abuse/Get_Help/State/index.aspx
If you or a loved one has been a victim of Medicare fraud, report it. NHCOA can help, call 1-866-943-7289.