Five Ways to Advocate for the Elderly

Do you feel naturally protective of older people and want to help them navigate the challenges of life? If so, consider becoming an advocate for the elderly. 

Many older people are not well-suited to handle new and difficult circumstances. Transitions like moving to a long-term care facility or seeking medical care can be scary. Whether you work with elderly individuals or have some in your family, here are five ways to advocate for them.

1. Watch for Signs of Abuse

Though it may seem unimaginable that someone would intentionally harm an older person, elder abuse is all too real. It can occur practically anywhere but is more likely to happen out of public sight. If your loved one is in a long-term care facility, it’s important to watch for signs of abuse. Remember, not all abuse is physical or leaves obvious physical marks. Other common types of abuse include neglect, financial exploitation, and emotional and sexual abuse.

Each time you visit someone in a nursing home, look for possible signs of mistreatment. These could include bruises in strange places, sudden behavioral changes, unexplained weight loss, and/or suspicious bank withdrawals. If you suspect an elder is experiencing abuse of any kind, consider visiting a doctor for a second opinion. You may also wish to contact a nursing home abuse lawyer to see whether you have cause for litigation. If the elderly person’s life is in danger, call 911 immediately.

2. Accompany Them During Hospital Stays

As people grow older, their bodies tend to slow down and function less efficiently than before. As a result, they may be more susceptible to illness, injuries, and diseases that could land them in the hospital. Most hospital staff are well-equipped to take excellent care of older adults. However, it is never a good idea to drop your loved one off and leave them to fend for themselves. A hospital stay — however long it may be — can be a scary thing for an elder to face on their own.

To advocate for your older friend or family member, visit them frequently while they’re in the hospital. If you have other responsibilities that force you away for extended periods of time, arrange for others to visit. 

Accompanying an elder in the hospital serves two important purposes: companionship and advocacy. When you’re there, you can give the patient comfort and support in a challenging situation. You can also look out for their needs, watch for medication administration mistakes, and help them get timely assistance from medical staff.  

3. Protect Against Scams and Fraud

Elders are often more susceptible to scammers and fraudsters because they tend to be trusting, loyal, and lonely. In 2020 alone, older adults lost nearly $140 million to romance scammers. Many scammers would like nothing more than to take advantage of a trusting elderly person. This is especially true if that person has a large savings account and no one to stick up for them.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect older individuals from common frauds and deceptions. Become familiar with some of the more widespread scams and educate the elders in your life about them. Online romance scams, phony online shopping websites, email phishing, and Social Security scams are all common schemes targeting the elderly. 

Periodically check your loved one’s emails, bank accounts, and phone call logs to identify any suspicious interactions. Above all, remain involved and aware of what’s going on in your senior’s life.

4. Facilitate Social Interaction

Everyone needs social interaction, but older individuals have a special need for regular communication with others. Many older adults have trouble getting out and about due to physical limitations. As a result, they’re more likely to feel isolated and depressed. 

Depression is more likely in older adults who have other illnesses or chronic health conditions. Ensuring your loved one gets regular social interaction is an effective means of promoting their mental health.

One great way to help older adults make new friends is by encouraging them to join a community group for the elderly. Such organizations provide social interaction and meaningful opportunities for older adults. To find such groups, contact your local AARP chapter or senior communities. You can also join community social media groups and watch for senior-friendly events and activities.  

5. Work or Volunteer for an Advocacy Organization

To champion all the seniors in your community, consider joining an advocacy organization. You can volunteer your time or seek a salaried position at one of these organizations. Such groups promote legislation that helps protect elderly citizens. They also push for community programs that enable older community members to gain access to needed resources.

If you’re not sure how to find local advocacy organizations, check with the National Council on Aging. This resource offers valuable information for advocates of older adults. Visit the NCOA website to learn about programs in your area. You’ll also find the latest public policy news regarding aging programs and older adults.

Elderly people need love and support from individuals who care about them. As an advocate for the elderly, you can ensure older individuals are treated with the care and respect they deserve. You can also help older adults enjoy a higher quality of life than they’d experience without your intervention.

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