Elder abuse: silent suffering | Editorial

It’s difficult to imagine that there are people in our community abusing some of our most vulnerable: the elderly.

Many are familiar with the horror stories of convalescent home workers mistreating those in their care. However, there are other forms of abuse such as neglect and financial exploitation that are just as harmful and usually carried out by friends or family members. San Juan County Senior Services sees about six of those cases a year, but say many incidents go unreported.

A significant portion of our population is elderly, or will be in the near future. A watchful community is one of the best ways to prevent elder abuse.

Avoid fraud by making sure there are two people overseeing the person’s finances.

Look for signs – such as weight loss, unsanitary living conditions or inappropriate physical contact – that someone is being abused or neglected.

Ask yourself: is this person safe? Does he/she live alone? Are they clean? Are they wearing clothing that is appropriate for the weather? Are there unexplained withdrawals from normal activities or strained, tense relationships with family members?

Listen to your gut. If something feels off, it most likely is.

We have wonderful safety nets in the San Juans. Our senior centers and volunteer programs keep a close eye on our older generations and offer companionship, transportation, meals and more. But there are many seniors who live alone, don’t venture out very often and have no one to turn to. It’s up to the rest of us to be aware and mindful. Nationally, hundreds of thousands of the old and frail – who rely on others to survive – are abused and exploited. Let’s not contribute to those statistics.

If you think something isn’t right, call the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office at 378- 4151,

SAFE San Juans at 378-2345, 376-1234, 468-4567 or Adult Protective Services at 1-866-221-4909. For more information about the signs of elder abuse, go to goo.gl/tvZZQV.

Remember, it’s not our responsibility to verify that exploitation is happening; it’s our responsibility to alert those who can.