June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month

Chippewa Falls, WI – In Wisconsin in 2020 nearly 5,000 cases of elder abuse or neglect were reported according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. In the United States, up to five million senior citizens are abused or neglected each year, according to the National Council on Aging. However, only one in every 14 cases is brought to the attention of authorities. 

As part of June’s Elder Abuse Awareness Month, HSHS St. Joseph’s home health department is sharing information and tips to help you recognize the signs of harm. 

There are many types of abuse including physical, emotional, sexual, financial, neglect and abandonment. Actions associated with some of these include withholding medication, preventing elders from seeing close friends or relatives, not buying him or her enough food, yelling, threatening, stealing or simply ignoring a senior citizen.

HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital Director of Home Health, Debbie Lauer says whether your loved one is at home or in a nursing care facility, you should look and listen to him or her carefully. 

“Sometimes the abuse may not be as obvious as a bruise or broken bone,” says Lauer. “It’s even more difficult if your loved one cannot communicate well with you because of a decline in memory or motor function.” 

Lauer says some of the other things to watch for include dirty skin or body odor, sudden weight loss, bed sores, unexplained burns or scars, recent changes in banking or spending patterns, depression, withdrawal from activities he or she typically enjoys, and unexpected changes in behavior. 

“Something to look for with patients and caregivers is how they communicate, both verbally and nonverbally,” says Lauer. “Watch and listen to see if things ‘match up’ – if the patient explains things the same way the caregiver does, and if there’s any tension between the two.” 

Another reason for caution, says Lauer, is if the caregiver always speaks for their senior citizen. “If the patient is verbal, but not allowed to answer questions or appears hesitant to answer on their own behalf, it doesn’t mean there’s abuse or neglect going on, but if it’s a pattern it does tell me to look a little closer.”

If you suspect an elder is being abused or neglected call 911 or contact the Wisconsin Department of Health Services


About HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital
HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the Founding Institute, and it is an affiliate of Hospital Sisters Health System. Since 1889, it has been meeting patient needs in western Wisconsin with the latest medical innovations and technology, together with a Franciscan whole-person healing tradition.

About Hospital Sisters Health System
Hospital Sisters Health System’s (HSHS) mission is to reveal and embody Christ’s healing love for all people through our high quality, Franciscan health care ministry. HSHS provides state-of-the-art health care to our patients and is dedicated to serving all people, especially the most vulnerable, at each of our physician practices and 15 local hospitals in two states - Illinois (Breese, Decatur, Effingham, Greenville, Highland, Litchfield, O’Fallon, Shelbyville and Springfield) and Wisconsin (Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Oconto Falls, Sheboygan, and two in Green Bay). HSHS is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries,  and Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the founding institute. For more information about HSHS, visit www.hshs.org. For more information about Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, visit www.hospitalsisters.org.

Media Contact

Karen Kraus

Communications Department
HSHS Wisconsin
Office: (715) 717-4591
Cell: (715) 717-4747

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