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June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month: Know the types and signs

Nearly one in 10 senior citizens in the United States is abused or neglected each year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. However, only one in every 14 cases is brought to the attention of authorities.

The agency also reports that most elder abuse victims are female, and often have physical disabilities, memory lapses or dementia, however all senior citizens are at risk.

As part of June’s Elder Abuse Awareness Month, HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital home health department is sharing information and tips to help caregivers and others recognize the signs of harm.

There are many types of abuse including physical, emotional, sexual, financial, neglect and abandonment. Actions associated with some of these include withholding medication, preventing elders from seeing close friends or relatives, not buying him or her enough food, yelling, threatening, stealing or simply ignoring a senior citizen.

HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital medical social worker, Barb Jacobsen says whether your loved one is at home or in a nursing care facility, you should look and listen to him or her carefully.

“Sometimes the abuse may not be as obvious as a bruise or broken bone,” says Barb. “It’s even more difficult if your loved one cannot communicate well with you because of a decline in memory or motor function.”

Jacobsen says some of the other things to watch for include burns, scars, dirty skin or body odor, sudden weight loss, bed sores, recent changes in banking or spending patterns, depression, withdrawal from activities he or she typically enjoys, and unexpected changes in behavior.

If you suspect an elder is being abused, contact the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

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