Preventing Elder Abuse: Get Some Help

Keeping the Peace ~ A Commentary
By Alison Cservenschi, Bedford’s Council on Aging Director

Elder abuse is defined by the World Health Organization as “a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.”  Elder abuse can be physical, psychological, financial or neglect or can be a combination of these.  Adult children, caregivers, and family members can quickly become overwhelmed with the demands of caring for a parent or loved one. Struggling with family commitments, paying for children in college, dealing with personal health needs, or trying to care for a loved one from far away can add to the burden of care, especially if not prepared for the inevitable changes in care needs that come with aging.

It is important to recognize the signs of caregiver stress to avoid unintentional abuse which comes from caregiver burn out. Caring for someone over a long time or caring for a loved one unexpectedly after a sudden health change, such as a devastating stroke, will take its toll on the most loving family member. Signs of burnout include the following:  anxiety, depression, feeling tired after resting, feeling resentment, new or worsening health problems, difficulty concentrating, neglecting other responsibilities, and cutting back on social activities. Knowing when to ask for help is vital to the health of both the caregiver and the person receiving care.  The Council on Aging is a good place to start the conversation towards getting the right help in place for your situation.

We often hear the challenge from concerned adult children struggling to persuade aging parents to accept help at home. Aging parents desperately trying to maintain their independence can be challenged by day to day chores, seasonal yard work, and general household maintenance. A recommendation is to keep offering assistance.  The additional help with housework, laundry, bed making, and shopping can assist in preserving energy for other things and prevent fatigue and falls.

The reality is that seniors are living longer and will need more help as they age. Unfortunately, those who own a house and property may need to use those assets to pay for the type of care needed. Estranged families or strained relationships can sometimes lead to loved ones not stepping up to provide or arrange much-needed care.  Family members expecting an inheritance who do not want to use these assets to arrange to pay for help is an example of financial abuse.

There are many local service providers and organizations that can help with day to day care, household chores, medication reminders, shopping, companionship, and transport to medical appointments.  The COA resource section of the Town webpage lists the many resources available for seniors, their loved ones, and caregivers.

In addition, the COA, in collaboration with the Bedford Board of Health and Bedford Fire Department recently initiated a new Falls Prevention program with funding from a Collaborative Grant from the Community Health Network Area (CHNA) 15 DoN funds from Lahey Hospital & Medical Center. CHNA 15 is a partnership between the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, hospitals, service agencies, schools, businesses, boards of health, non-profit organizations and citizens working together to improve the health of member communities. This Falls Prevention program includes complimentary falls prevention education, home safety education, and home visits.  Caregiver support is also an essential part of caring for the caregiver and avoiding unintentional elder abuse. There are resources and help available to caregivers and loved ones through hospitals, hospice, churches, and elder service organizations such as the COA. To access this and many other resources please log on to and see what may be available to you.

Keeping the Peace is sponsored by the Violence Prevention Coalition of Bedford, a representative group of citizens interested in ending violence in families, communities, and beyond.  Alison Cservenschi is Director of Bedford Council on Aging, a constituent member of VPC.

The VPC meets the first Tuesday of every other month at 8:00 a.m. at First Church of Christ Congregational, 25 the Great Road, Bedford.  For more information call 781/275-7951.


Keep our journalism strong! Support The Citizen Journalism Fund today. Contact The Bedford Citizen: or 781-325-8606

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x