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How to Prevent Elder Abuse

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Elderly women. Doing physical exercise, France
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Question: How to Prevent Elder Abuse
It’s important to recognize the signs of elder abuse, but there are things that caregivers and older adults can do to avoid situations where elder abuse can happen.
Answer: Based on suggestions from the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), here are some ways you can prevent elder abuse:
  • Take care of your health. For caregivers, this means knowing when your stress level is out of control. Caregiving-while rewarding-can be hard on your physical and emotional health. Make sure you practice good self-care.

    For older adults, self-care is important too, especially when your activity is limited by illness or injury. Eat healthy meals, get some form of regular exercise (ask your doctor for suggestions) and keep your mind active.

  • Seek professional help for drug, alcohol, and depression concerns, and urge family members to get help for these problems. Support is available if you ask for it.
  • Attend support groups for spouses and learn about domestic violence services. If domestic violence is a concern, don't wait to get help. Look for local domestic violence organizations, contact your local police, or look online for agencies and groups that offer domestic violence information and support.
  • Plan for your own future. The NCEA recommends that you create a power of attorney or a living will. This will help you address important health care decisions while you are still healthy enough to make decisions. Having a living will or power of attorney (I have both) will help you and your family avoid confusion and problems if you become incapacitated. Be sure to seek independent advice from someone you trust before signing any documents.
  • Stay active in the community and stay connected with friends and family. Social isolation is strongly connected with elder abuse, so whether you are a caregiver or an older adult, it's important to stay connected.
  • Know your rights. For older adults, it's important to remember that if you or your family hire a paid or family caregiver, you have the right to voice your preferences and concerns.

    If you live in a nursing home or a board-and-care home, NCEA suggests that you contact your Long Term Care Ombudsman if you have concerns. The ombudsman is your advocate and has the power to intervene on your behalf.

    Some older adults feel embarrassed, ashamed or fearful about reporting any form of elder abuse. Please remember that your state and local communities have professional who are trained to handle elder abuse issues, so don't be afraid to speak up.

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