KLICKITAT COUNTY — Caring for elders is a fundamental responsibility that all cultures share. With age can come the potential to be taken advantage of, be neglected, or be harmed. We must show compassion and prevent suffering and damage whenever possible.

June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month. June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, a day designated by the United Nations for the entire world to voice its opposition to any form of abuse of the older generation.

Many older people are unable to advocate for themselves. They may be physically frail or scared of speaking up for fear of repercussions.

Elder abuse is a crime. Whether physical, mental, or sexual mistreatment, it can be considered a crime in Washington through action or inaction. Financial exploitation, or improper use of an elder or vulnerable adult’s income or resources, is included in this definition.

Neglect is also a crime. A person or entity with a duty to care for an elder or vulnerable adult must maintain their physical or mental health as charged. If they show a pattern of conduct detrimental to that duty, or inaction to that duty, they may be guilty of neglect.

Be on the lookout for signs of elder or vulnerable adult abuse:

  • Neglect could appear as lack of food and water, dirty clothing, poor hygiene, poor housekeeping, and lack of medication.
  • Financial exploitation could appear as basic needs not being met, unpaid bills, unusual purchases, or unexplained fiscal activities.
  • Physical abuse could appear as bruises, black eyes, welts, broken bones, cuts, sprains, sudden changes in behavior, or a caregiver refusing to leave the elder adult alone.
  • Mental abuse could appear as threatening significant harm, using derogatory names, insults, profanity, ridicule, harassment, or humiliation to gain control.
  • Sexual abuse could appear as unusual bruising on the thighs or chest, unexplained STDs, unexplained behavior such as withdrawing from social interactions, or having panic attacks.

It can be easy to overlook some of these signs, and this month, and the annual day of recognition, reminds us how important it is to look out for elders and vulnerable adults in our communities.

Respect, compassion, and attention are what our seniors deserve every day of the year. If you see something of concern, but are unsure how to respond you can contact Adult Protective Services at 1-877-734-6277. If you have a loved one or friend living in a facility, like a nursing home, adult family home, or assisted living, or they are receiving any supportive living services, report any abuse or neglect you suspect to 1-800-562-6078.

Contact the vulnerable person’s local banking institution and law enforcement.

Other helpful numbers to support seniors:

National Elder Fraud Hotline: 833–FRAUD–11

FINRA Securities Helpline for Seniors: 844-57-HELPS (844-574-3577)

Klickitat County Senior Services: 509-773-3757 or 509-493-3068

Programs for Peaceful Living: 509-773-6100 or 509-493-2662 and the 24/7 crisis line 844-493-1709

Skamania County Senior Services: 509-427-3990

Skamania County Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault: 509-427-4210

We can all help protect our seniors every day by doing a few simple things. Know the symptoms of abuse. If you suspect something, say something and do something. Help spread the word and Stop Elder and Vulnerable Adult Abuse.