Break out the purple

Cathy Brownfield

I received a phone call from an elderly man I know. We hadn’t spoken in some time, since the day he found my home by accident and stopped to visit. Over the weekend, he needed a friendly ear willing to listen for a little while, and I was willing to give him some of my time. He was concerned about the treatment of elderly persons, something he thought I wouldn’t know anything about. His kids are about the same age as my brothers and me. I am a member of the DAHS Class of 1971. He may have a 15-year head start but I am learning as we go now. My mother told me this day would come, that I would learn what it’s like to grow old.


June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that “elder abuse is a serious public health problem in the United States.”

Break out your purple to help bring awareness about elder abuse. It should be everywhere June 15. Our elderly population is a precious natural resource, deserving of respect, love and honor.

What is elder abuse? It is an intentional act or failure to act that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult, someone age 60 or older, done by a caregiver or someone they trust.

The abuse can be intentional physical force including hitting, pushing, slapping, etc. It can be sexual abuse, forcing the elder to participate in unwanted sexual acts. It can be emotional or psychological abuse which includes humiliation and disrespect, verbal and non-verbal threats, harassment, and isolation either geographical or interpersonal.


Neglect can be abuse. It is the failure to meet the basic needs of the elder person … food, water, shelter, clothing, hygiene and medical care. And there is financial abuse when someone uses the elder’s financial means for someone else other than the elder. And there is abandonment. (Did you ever live with the fear of abandonment?)

Depending on which source you refer to, neglect is at the top of the list followed by psychological abuse, according to the National Institutes of Health. Elder abuse happens in the home in which the elder lives.

Haven’t we all heard impatient words spoken to and about elderly persons? I gently remind that, “I want to be kind to the elderly. One day that will be me and I’ll want to be treated kindly, too.”

Think for a moment about all of the knowledge and wisdom older people have accumulated through the years of history-making that they have lived. They are the ones who remember and share the events from their personal observations of the times. And they are deserving of respect.

“… older adults who are abused are twice as likely to be hospitalized, four times as likely to go into nursing homes, and three times as likely to die,” says the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day website.

“World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is commemorated each year on June 15th to highlight one of the worst manifestations of ageism and inequality in our society, elder abuse.”

How can you show respect to your aging loved ones? Respect their feelings. Listen to what they are saying, how they are feeling, and encourage them. Go by their rules. Give compliments.

My mother had Alzheimer’s. I went to see her at the nursing home. She sat on her bed, wouldn’t talk or utter a sound. I asked what was wrong. Why wasn’t she talking to me?

“I don’t want to sound like an idiot.”

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, I knew that someone on that staff had called her an idiot. And I was furious.

“No, Mom. You are not an idiot. It’s called Alzheimer’s. I want you to talk to me, whatever you want to talk about, and never, ever stop. And I don’t care how many times you tell me the same thing over and over again.”

She looked at me and the light came back into her eyes. Her facial features relaxed. She smiled. “OK.”

Be kind.

FRC history bite: In response to the opioid overdose deaths crises, FRC became a Project Dawn site in October 2017, distributing 30 Naloxone kits. In 2019, Project Dawn distributed 972 kits. The program began a mail order program in April 2020, making the kits more widely available. In 2020, 858 Naloxone kits were distributed, and in 2021, there were 1,437 kits distributed. During the week of May 17-23, 2021, 226 Narcan kits were handed out to local business and community members in the 43920 zip code area after the state targeted East Liverpool because of the overdoses that were occurring.

For help or more information, contact Family Recovery Center, 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468. Visit the website at FRC is funded in part by Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.