Seniors Can Be Victims of Domestic Violence

The changing of the seasons brings the vibrant colors of fall. While many of us are enjoying the scenery, cooler weather, and pumpkin spice, others do not have much to celebrate.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It is a month of unity that aims to connect individuals with resources across the country.

Domestic violence affects millions of people, both women and men, of every race, religion, culture, and income level. It’s not just physical abuse. Domestic violence can also take the form of yelling, humiliation, stalking, manipulation, coercion, threats, and isolation.

A sometimes forgotten population affected by domestic violence is seniors. Elderly individuals face unique challenges when domestic violence happens to them. They are often put at a greater risk of harm.

This month, it’s important for all of us to speak out against domestic violence and do what we can to help those most in need. Learning about domestic violence in seniors can help you advocate for those affected and connect them to vital community resources.

Seniors can be victims of domestic violence

Every person’s experience with domestic violence is different. But, seniors who are in an abusive relationship experience unique challenges when it comes to breaking the cycle and getting help.

Many older adults will not report domestic violence for a number of reasons. They may be dependent on their abuser for basic needs, such as housing, food, or care. They may be embarrassed or confused about their situation. They may also face isolation and have difficulty leaving the home to seek help.

Seniors who experience domestic violence can face greater physical consequences, including a higher risk of falls, greater severity of injury, and slower healing and recovery.

While all of these factors paint a dark picture for older adults in domestic violence situations, there is hope. Each of us can do our part to help end elder abuse by understanding how to recognize the signs and assist those in need.

Knowing the signs of domestic violence in seniors

The first step to helping a senior out of an abusive home is to recognize the issue. Look for signs of domestic violence if you suspect something is going on.

These are the five signs of domestic violence to look for.

  1. Unexplained bruises or other injuries.
  2. Withdrawal from activities he/she enjoyed, or sudden changes in alertness or unusual depression.
  3. Sudden changes in financial situation.
  4. Poor hygiene, bedsores, unusual weight loss, or unattended medical needs.
  5. Belittling, threats, or frequent arguments with a caregiver.

While these signs may not be a one-hundred percent tell that a person is experiencing violence at home, they can help lead you to the truth. Identifying any of these signs and knowing the correct next steps to take could help get a person out of a bad situation and onto a better, healthier life.

What you can do to help those in need

You’ve noticed a senior in your life is showing signs of domestic violence. What should you do next?

The best option may NOT be to insert yourself into the situation and address the abuser. This could put you or others in harm’s way.

Instead, look at resources in your community that can assist with the situation. Professionals in many different fields can help get the senior safely out of the home and get them back on their feet towards a more stable living situation.

If there is immediate danger, call 9-1-1. If you suspect domestic violence but there is no immediate danger, call your state’s Adult Protective Services agency.

Adult Protective Services serves older adults and adults with disabilities who are in need of assistance. Adult Protective Services workers investigate cases of abuse, neglect, or exploitation. They work closely with a wide variety of professionals such as physicians, nurses, paramedics, firefighters, and police officers to help individuals on the road to recovery and safety.

Every state has an Adult Protective Services agency. You may call anonymously and APS workers should never mention your name to the victim or abuser.

Local resources for Summit County residents

If you are a senior experiencing domestic violence or suspect someone who is in Summit County, there are several resources to help you.

You can reach Summit County Adult Protective Services by calling 330-643-7217.

Other agencies include The Center for Hope & Healing, which houses The Battered Women’s Shelter and Rape Crisis Center. The two organizations are separate nonprofits but work together to provide resources and support.

Victim Assistance Program empowers the community to restore lives impacted by crisis, violence, and tragedy.  They have helped over 6,000 individuals each year through crisis intervention, advocacy, and education to both victims and to those in the professional community who assist them.

Not seeing the resources you need? Call 2-1-1 to reach the United Way’s hotline for resources and information.

VANTAGE Aging promotes a positive perspective on aging by providing a variety of programs and services for seniors wishing to age in place. Programs include home-delivered meals through Meals On Wheels, homecare and house cleaning services, paid job training for older adults, and a volunteer network for older adults who want to give back.

*The information in this article is intended solely to provide general information on matters of interest for the personal use of the reader, who accepts full responsibility for its use. This article should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, medical, or other competent advisors.

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