Prosecutor brings awareness to elder abuse, says family and friends must protect the most vulnerable


HANCOCK COUNTY — Prosecutor Brent Eaton says crimes against senior citizens are real and, in fact, one in 10 Americans over the age of 60 have experienced elder abuse. Eaton knows all too well about the issue. His office is preparing for a trial later this fall where a 91-year-old county woman was raped at a senior living facility.

Elder Abuse Awareness Day was Saturday and Eaton said officials have to do a better job of bringing light to the issue and promoting a better understanding of the abuse and neglect of elderly individuals who can suffer from cruel acts.

“As people age, they may be at higher risk of facing certain types of abuse, and we have to be on the lookout for this,” Eaton said.

Eaton noted that older members of a community can experience numerous issues and forms of abuse from neglect, physical, emotional, financial or even sexual abuse.

“For an older person to face this kind of abuse, it can have serious health, financial and social consequences, including physical injuries, premature death, depression, cognitive decline, financial ruin and placement in nursing homes,” Eaton said. “The abuse of our elderly not only affects older individuals but also has an impact on all of us.”

Eaton went on to say that it is imperative that we take care of and look after the elderly, who are far too vulnerable and in some cases too weak to sometimes care for themselves.

“When our elderly adults face neglect or abuse, we lose their valuable participation in our communities,” Eaton said. “By creating a community where elderly individuals feel safe and appreciated, we will be blessed with their positive contributions to our community.”

For family members and friends, Eaton said it’s important to know how to identify, address and prevent abuse of the elderly in the community. That means learning the signs of elder abuse, which include physical signals like unusual weight loss, the absence of physical aids like glasses or medications, unexplained injuries and unattended medical needs. Emotional and behavioral signs of abuse may include increased fear or anxiety, isolation and unusual changes in behavior or sleep. Financial signs of abuse may also be present, involving fraudulent signatures on financial documents, unusual or sudden changes in spending patterns, or unpaid bills.

“No matter our age, it is up to all of us to prevent and address elder abuse,” Eaton said. “Look for warning signs, call, and visit loved ones to prevent isolation, talk to friends and family about how to watch over our elders, and be a friendly face to the older individuals of our community.”

For those who might be experiencing elder abuse or suspect abuse of an elderly person, the Indiana Adult Protective Services (APS) and the Indiana Long-Term Care Ombudsman program can help. For more information visit the APS website. In cases of urgent danger, call 911 or contact local law enforcement.