Missouri officials call for support and protection of elders

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Each year, an estimated 5 million older adults are abused, neglected, bullied or exploited. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was launched in 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations, to unite communities around the world to raise awareness about elder abuse. Each June 15, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day serves as a call to action for individuals, organizations and communities to raise awareness about abuse, neglect and exploitation of elders.

“Elder abuse affects older people across all socioeconomic groups, cultures and races, and can occur anywhere when they are disconnected from social supports: in a person’s home, in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other institutional settings, or in hospitals,” said Melanie Highland, Director of the Division of Senior and Disability Services for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS).

In Missouri, DHSS receives and investigates reports of abuse, neglect, bullying and exploitation of the elderly and disabled. Last year, DHSS received and investigated 40,714 reports, an average of about 111 each day. That number is on the rise, though the crimes are vastly underreported.

“The victim is often in a situation of dependency and relies on the perpetrator for care or transportation, and feels too fearful or embarrassed to report the abuse. They may be in denial that the abuse is occurring, or unaware that what they are experiencing is abuse or neglect,” said Highland.

With support from Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe, DHSS is excited to host a WEAAD Facebook video premiere event today at 11 a.m. to help build strong supports for elders in Missouri. Join the discussion and learn how to recognize the signs of adult abuse and how to report it.  Everyone is encouraged to wear purple and communities across Missouri are encouraged to display purple ribbons, flags, pinwheels or light up landmarks on June 15 to bring awareness to this public health issue.

Anyone who suspects that a senior or disabled Missourian is being abused, neglected, bullied or exploited, should call the toll-free Missouri Adult Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-392-0210 or report online at health.mo.gov/abuse. The hotline is operational from 7 a.m. through midnight, 365 days a year. Online reporting is available 24/7.                                                                     

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About the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: The department seeks to be the leader in protecting health and keeping people safe. More information about DHSS can be found at http://health.mo.gov or find us on Facebook and Twitter @HealthyLivingMo