Elder abuse is defined as a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate actions, which causes harm, risk of harm or distress to an individual 60 years or older. According to the National Council on Aging, at least 10 percent of older adults have suffered elder abuse. Categories of elder abuse include physical, psychological, emotional, or sexual abuse; neglect; abandonment; and financial exploitation. Elder abuse is a global social issue that affects the health and human rights of millions of older persons around the world, and an issue that deserves the attention of the international community.
In recognition, June 15, has been designated as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. This day to reflect upon the impact of elderly abuses was launched in 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. WEAAD is held in support of the UN International Plan of Action acknowledging the significance of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue. This observance serves as a call-to-action to individuals, organizations, and communities to raise awareness about elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
In the United States, there have been two recent pieces of bipartisan legislation aimed at combating elder abuses. In 2010, the Elder Justice Act became law and provided federal resources to “prevent, detect, treat, understand, intervene in and, where appropriate, prosecute elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.”
The Elder Abuse Prevention and Protection Act became law in October of 2017 and, in January 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered all 94 U.S. Attorney offices install elder justice coordinators in every federal judicial district. The Act requires the creation of tools and allocation of more resources to assist officials at all levels in tackling elder abuse. It also called for more and better data collection, opened access to funding pools to help elder victims, and increased penalties for financial fraud crimes against the elderly.
This office is keenly aware that the loss of power and the isolation that come with age and infirmity make elders particularly vulnerable to abuse from unscrupulous caregivers, family members, telemarketers and scam artists. The cost, on top of the human suffering, is immense. Working with state and local officials, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana has expanded its outreach efforts to combat elder abuse. More information can be found at www.justice.gov/usao-edla.
Duane A. Evans
U.S. attorney, Eastern District of Louisiana