Preventing Elder Abuse in Our North Florida Communities
Florida is known for our active and involved community of senior citizens. Many older Americans come to our state seeking a beautiful climate in which to enjoy their well-earned retirement years. Although many of our seniors live active, independent, and fulfilling lives, elder abuse in Panama City and throughout Northern Florida is a very real problem. Mistreatment and neglect can occur in a family home and can also manifest as Panama City nursing home abuse.
The National Center on Elder Abuse ("NCEA") is an organization dedicated to preventing elder abuse nationwide and to providing information about the under-recognized problem. Compilation of elder abuse statistics is difficult, due to the lack of a universal definition as to what constitutes abuse. In a 2005 report, NCEA estimated that one to two million Americans over age 65 have been victims of mistreatment at the hands of someone they relied upon for care, assistance, or protection.
Statistics are also hindered by the fact that abuse is highly underreported. The NCEA study suggested that only 1 in 14 instances of elder abuse in domestic settings is brought to the attention of authorities. This underreporting is even more prevalent in cases of financial exploitation. NCEA estimates that financial mistreatment impacts 5 million American seniors annually with only 1 in 25 being reported.
Everyone can play a role in helping to prevent elder abuse and increasing public awareness. Abuse can occur in nursing facilities and also in the home, when seniors are mistreated by family members or other caregivers. Here are a few things you can do to help:
- Reach out to seniors in your community. Many seniors, especially those who are facing illness or mental decline, are isolated, and this isolation can lead to abuse or neglect going unrecognized. Volunteer in a local senior center or nursing home and check in with elderly neighbors, especially those who are more vulnerable due to illness or cognitive difficulties.
- Be alert for warning signs of abuse and neglect including injuries, poor hygiene, and a change in mood. Caregivers who restrict visitors or otherwise limit communication should arouse suspicions and concern. Increased secrecy about finances can also be a sign that someone is taking economic advantage of the individual.
- Talk to seniors about the danger of financial fraud, including predatory lending and telemarketing schemes. Fraud schemes often target the elderly. Help loved ones identify legitimate financial planning services, or where your relationship makes it appropriate and the individual needs assistance, help them manage their finances.
- Advocate for the rights of senior citizens at the national, state, and local level. Find news online at the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.
- Support the Bay County Council on Aging. The group provides a range of services, including senior centers and support for caregivers. Referring a stressed caregiver to the service can help prevent familial neglect and abuse.
- Report suspected abuse. The Abuse Hotline at the Florida Department of Children and Families can be reached at 1-800-962-2873 (press 2 for reports regarding elderly or otherwise vulnerable adults).
Contact an experienced Panama City elder abuse lawyer who can help you protect the legal rights of victims of elder abuse or nursing home neglect in Panama City and throughout North Florida.