Most people are aware that Elder Abuse is a problem, far fewer realize just how big of a problem it is. It exists in every region, every state, and every major city in the country.

In fact, there’s a decent chance a person you know has been a victim. Approximately 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 60 have experienced some form of elder abuse.

There are many organizations and government agencies committed to identifying and stopping elder abuse. However, the average citizen has a role to play as well. After all, the problem often exists at hyper-local, individual level; we may encounter victims and perpetrators at our places of worship, grocery stores, and restaurants.

Ending elder abuse means stopping it early, before it’s too late. it’s about prevention, not reaction.

With that in mind, here are three ways to prevent elder abuse.

Identify

Knowing what elder abuse looks like is the first step to prevention. Elder Abuse isn’t always physical; it can take many different forms, including financial, emotional, and sexual.

In fact, elder abuse may not involve anyone besides the victim; this is known as elder self-neglect. Elder self-neglect occurs when an elderly person stops caring for themselves in a way that threatens their own safety and well-being.

For example, if they stop bathing, changing their clothes, and brushing their teeth for an extended period of time there would be serious consequences in terms of their health and well-being. This is a form of abuse in its own right.

Look and listen

Because the notion of elder abuse is so shocking to the conscious, those around it may refuse to acknowledge its existence despite clear signs it’s happening.

If you have elderly friends or loved ones living in a care center, it’s important to check on them even if you don’t suspect anything nefarious.

While you’re with them, be aware of elder abuse and its different forms. A victim may not proclaim openly that they’re being abused, but there may be hints on their person or in their living space. They may also hint that they’re being abused in the way they communicate.

Report

If you suggest elder abuse it occurring it’s important to report it immediately. Don’t assume the situation will resolve itself or the abuse will stop. There are many hotlines, such as the Adult Protection Agency, that accept anonymous tips. Like with other forms of abuse, you’d much rather be safe than sorry.

Thankfully, elder abuse victims have rights under the law. Victims can seek recourse against their abusers in a court of law. They can also file a lawsuit to seek compensation for the pain and suffering they endured.

Speaking with an experienced elder abuse lawyer is the first step. They can evaluate the facts of a case, provide options, and chart a path forward that prioritizes the clients objectives.