(NAPSI)—Every year, millions of aging Americans experience physical, financial and emotional abuse. It is estimated that up to 10 percent of people aged 65 years or older have experienced some form of abuse. However, experts suggest that only one out of every 14 incidents ever comes to the attention of authorities.
“We need to educate ourselves to recognize the warning signs of elder abuse so that we can better protect our loved ones from abuse or exploitation,” said Rhonda Randall, D.O., executive vice president and chief medical officer at UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement. “Seniors should feel empowered to talk with their caregivers, family members, physicians or other health care providers anytime they feel threatened, or when they suspect someone is trying to exploit them. In order to stop elder abuse, we must talk about it openly.”
An area that is sometimes overlooked when discussing elder abuse is financial exploitation, the most common form of elder abuse. Medicare fraud—one aspect of financial abuse—costs U.S. taxpayers $60 billion to $90 billion each year.
According to Randall, aging Americans, caregivers and others can work together to prevent elder abuse by doing the following:
• Know the warning signs of physical and emotional abuse: Clues to the presence of abuse include unexplainable bruises or injury, unreasonable fearfulness or suspicion, and changes in personality, attitude or behavior.
• Take precautions to prevent Medicare fraud: Never give out Medicare, Social Security or credit card information to anyone without proper identification. If a Medicare card is lost or stolen, report it immediately by calling (800) 772-1213. Never sign your name to a form you do not fully understand. Ask questions of Medicare and health care providers in order to clarify any questionable charges or claims.
• Take advantage of resources that can assist you. Look to your community for support—seek help from family members, friends and neighbors, senior organizations and physicians.
• The most important thing is to speak up. Elder abuse thrives on silence. By educating ourselves to recognize the signs and through taking smart, preventive measures, we are working together to ensure aging Americans are no longer abused or exploited. To learn more about elder abuse, including information on recognizing and reporting abuse, visit the National Center on Elder Abuse at www.ncea.aoa.gov.