Sheriff Wilson & Whitfield

Sheriff Steve Wilson (left) and Commissioner Shannon Whitfield stand with the official proclamation making June 15 Elderly Abuse Awareness Day in Walker.

Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield proclaimed June 15 as Elderly Abuse Awareness Day in Walker.

“Elder abuse is a public health and human rights issue. ... Ageism and social isolation are major causes of elder abuse in the United States,” Whitfield said. “I encourage all of our communities to recognize and celebrate older adults and their ongoing contributions to the success and vitality of the community.”

Elder abuse can include emotional, verbal, physical, and psychological abuse as well as exploitation and neglect. According to the National Council on Aging, roughly one in 10 people over the age of 60 have experienced elder abuse. Additionally, some estimates range as high as 5 million elders who are abused in the United States yearly, with only 1 in 14 cases being reported to authorities.

In almost 60% of cases, the abuser is a family member. Social isolation and mental impairment can make older individuals more vulnerable to mistreatment, signs being bruises, bedsores, unexplained withdrawal or lack of interest, sudden changes in financial situation, and frequent arguments between the individual and their caregiver, among many others.

Elders who have been abused have a 300% higher chance of early death when compared to their counterparts who have not been mistreated.

Anyone can avoid mistreatment by small things, such as regularly checking their will, having their own telephone, attending support groups for spouses and learning about domestic violence services, and staying socially active in their community as well as with friends and family.

To report a case of adult abuse of any type, one should reach out to Adult Protective Services.

Jordan Mooney is a reporter for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and The Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.