ABC news recently shared a news story about actor Mickey Rooney which brought the sad fact of elder abuse to the forefront. The article describes how Rooney “was granted court protection from stepson Chris Aber and his stepdaughter Christina Aber, after he filed a case against them charging verbal, emotional and financial abuse, and for denying him such basic necessities as food and medicine…. The court documents say that both Chris and Christina Aber have been keeping Rooney as ‘effectively a prisoner in his own home’ through the use of threats, intimidation and harassment. “

Unfortunately stories like this are all too common.  A report released by the National Center on Elder Abuse mentions that “between 1 and 2 million Americans age 65 or older have been injured, exploited, or otherwise mistreated by someone on whom they depended for care or protection.” Most cases of elder abuse aren’t as severe that described by Rooney.  In fact, according to the ABC article, “more often than not, elder abuse has to do with unintentional neglect from family members who are ignorant of the proper ways to care for an aging individual.” And perhaps even more prevalent among the elderly is self-neglect, “which occurs when the elderly fail to follow medical advice or otherwise care of themselves.”

Luckily, there are steps that concerned family members can take to help prevent their loved one from falling into mistreatment, neglect or abuse.  The National Center on Elder Abuse shares some simple steps that can be taken to reduce the risk:

  • * Be aware of the warning signs of abuse.
  • * Check in on your loved one at regular intervals; know his or her medicines, routines and caretakers.
  • * Listen to your loved one and investigate any strange stories or complaints.
  • * Keep a wary eye on the mail—many cases of financial abuse take place through mail order scams.
  • * If you are the caretaker of your loved one, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Taking care of yourself is a big part of caring for your elderly loved one.

As helpful as these tips may be, there is much, much more that seniors can do to prevent elder abuse before it even begins:

  • * Take care of your health by scheduling regular visits to the doctor and taking prescription medication with absolute regularity.
  • * Stay active in your community, keep close relationships with family members.
  • * Don’t be afraid to use your voice—talk to your loved ones about your plans and wishes for the future and about your concerns in the present.
  • * And perhaps most important of all—Take steps to plan for your future, including:
  • – Address your health care concerns by executing a health care directive;
  • – Secure your financial future by creating a power of attorney naming the person or people you trust as your financial agent;
  • – Have a will or trust drawn up to avoid confusion within the family later on;
  • – Consider creating a nomination of conservator in the event that you are ever unable to care for yourself.

And remember that part of planning for your future is seeking advice from a trusted advisor before signing any documents; as well as sharing your plans with your loved ones.  If you trust your family, don’t keep them in the dark. The more they know the more they can help.

At our office we help seniors and their families take steps to prevent elder abuse. If you are worried about yourself or someone you care about please contact our office.  We can help.

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