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Editorial: Elder Abuse Can Happen to Any Older Adult
Each year, thousands of older adults are abused, neglected, and exploited. Elder abuse can happen to anyone, even those who are mentally competent and those who do not require constant care. According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) “Toronto Declaration on the Global Prevention of Elder Abuse,” elder abuse is “a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person. It can be of various forms: physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, financial, or simply reflect intentional of unintentional neglect” (2002, p. 3). Worldwide, the number of adults 60 years and older is steadily increasing, so the WHO—in conjunction with other groups—established World Elder Abuse Day on June 15, 2011. (See the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse website [www.inpea.net] and the United States Department of Justice website [www.ovw.usdoj.gov/director-june2010msg.htm] for more information.)
The WHO’s international declaration aimed at preventing elder abuse was a result of the following factors:
As rehabilitation nurses, we often serve at-risk populations and we must remain particularly vigilant regarding the various types of elder abuse, its signs and symptoms, and the preventative actions and steps we should take when abuse is suspected. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA; 2010), some of the more common signs of elder abuse include
What actions need to be taken when elder abuse is suspected and what are some preventative measures that can be taken? The following are some recommendations suggested by the NCEA (2005).
Although older adults are at risk for elder abuse, much can be done by rehabilitation nurses to help reverse this trend and take a more proactive role. Because of the prominent role rehabilitation nurses have in inpatient, outpatient, home care, and long-term care settings, it is important that we are aware of the potential for elder abuse; we can improve the quality of life of our patients.
National Center on Elder Abuse. (2005). 15 questions and answers about elder abuse. Retrieved December 27, 2010, from www.ncea.aoa.gov/ncearoot/Main_Site/pdf/publication/FINAL%206-06-05%203-18-0512-10-04qa.pdf.
National Center on Elder Abuse. (2010). Why should I care about elder abuse? Retrieved December 27, 2010, from www.ncea.aoa.gov/ncearoot/Main_Site/pdf/publication/NCEA_WhatIsAbuse-2010.pdf.
World Health Organization. (2002). The Toronto declaration on the global prevention of elder abuse. Retrieved December 27, 2010, from www.who.int/ageing/projects/elder_abuse/alc_toronto_declaration_en.pdf.