As many of us who live in the Northeast Kingdom know, the winter months seem to last forever, and spring comes later here than in other parts of Vermont. Winter can be tedious for most everyone, but it is particularly so for those among us who are unable to get out and do the things they once were able to do. Of course, I am referring to the frail elders and disabled among our friends, neighbors and families. It’s important not to forget these people, regardless of the season, for reasons of courtesy and respect alone, but a visit or phone call can also go a long way toward preventing the mistreatment of elders and those who are disabled.
In my work as the elder justice specialist for the local Area Agency on Aging, I’ve learned that elder abuse often occurs in situations in which people are living alone or are isolated from contact with others. Social isolation seems to create the conditions in which abuse, neglect and exploitation can occur more readily and contributes to a number of other negative health consequences.
The good news here is that most all of us have the means to address this problem. Make a commitment to visit an older friend, family member or neighbor who lives alone. Reach out to an isolated family caregiver struggling to care for their loved one. Volunteer at a local senior meal program or to deliver Meals on Wheels in your community so no one goes without the human contact that is so important to our well-being. As always, if you have concerns about the welfare of a disabled adult, call 911 to report your concerns to local law enforcement authorities or contact Adult Protective Services (in Vermont, 800-564-1612).
As the days become longer and the roads dry, reach out to those in your circle of friends, family and neighbors who are alone. Not only will it brighten their day, it will reduce the likelihood of them suffering from abuse and neglect, and it will enrich your life, too.
Kim Rivard is the elder justice specialist at the Area Agency on Aging for Northeastern Vermont. For more information, contact the Senior HelpLine at 800-642-5119.
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