by Diana Sarver, LPN, organization development and training instructor

The Mission statement of the Masonic Villages is: “Our caring communities and services assist individuals, families and children in realizing their potential and enjoying the highest possible quality of life through the traditions of Freemasonry.” In order to fulfill this Mission, it is imperative we keep our residents free from abuse. We do this through education and participation in World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD).

“The purpose of WEAAD is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect,” according to the National Center on Elder Abuse. WEAAD is held every year on June 15.

This past year has been very stressful due to the pandemic, especially for frontline caregivers. They’ve worked overtime due to the nursing shortage. They faced daily fears of testing positive for COVID and potentially bringing it home to their loved ones or affecting those they care for. They struggled with having school age children who attend virtual classes from home.

When people are stressed, they are more likely to say and/or do things they would not typically do, which can lead to elder abuse.

Stress is defined as the state of being frightened, excited, confused, in danger or irritated. Stress can cause mental and physical tension or strain on a person. It is also the most common factor related to abusive behavior. The World Health Organization states 1 in 6 people age 60 and older have experienced some form of abuse.

Abuse is the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or punishment with resulting physical harm, pain or mental anguish. The most common types of abuse are misappropriation of resident property, involuntary seclusion, neglect, physical, mental, verbal and sexual.

We can all be more aware of our stress by monitoring our own level of frustration or anger. Examples are raising your voice, unkind tone of voice, negative body language, rough handling or paternalizing.

What can you do to reduce stress levels? Know your limits, maintain your health, get adequate sleep, take time for yourself, and practice patience, empathy and respect. If you see another caregiver struggling, offer help.

5 Things Everyone Can Do to Prevent Elder Abuse:

  1. Listen to older people and caregivers to understand their challenges and provide support.
  2. Educate one another about the signs of abuse and how to get help.
  3. Report suspected abuse or neglect as soon as possible
  4.  Build a community that fosters social connections and support.
  5. Reach out to professional services for support where available.

Working together, we can help each other avoid stress which could potentially lead to abuse. Educate yourself about abuse and how to report it. Advocate for all elders and help them enjoy the highest possible quality of life.