June 01, 2013
Each year we recognize World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which falls on June 15 this year. The chance to provide international focus on an issue that continues to grow is an important educational opportunity, and here in our region the need for community education is often apparent.
In our region, our agency is responsible to investigate abuse, neglect and exploitation of older adults as well as younger people with physical disabilities. Our Adult Protective Services Team responds to calls from the community as well as calls related to facility-based care. Our job is to investigate the situation, interview the relevant parties, including the potential victim, and determine if there has indeed been abuse, exploitation or neglect.
Our staff works in collaboration with the state Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, the county mental health programs, local law enforcement agencies and the district attorney’s office, among other community agencies. Our assessments include a determination of risk as well as attempting to resolve the complaint, which may include moving the victim to another living situation.
In the last year, our staff has conducted over 850 community and facility investigations as well as consultations for potential abuse or neglect situations in the region.
Across the United States hundreds of thousands of older adults are victims of abuse, neglect or exploitation. The issues are not just physical or verbal abuse and neglect. In the United States, older adults lose an estimated $2.6 million each year through financial exploitation and abuse. Those funds could have been used to pay for housing, prescription drugs or food — in other words necessities.
These issues are not correlated to demographics; this can happen to any one of us. It can occur from a trusted neighbor, a family member or organized scams that prey on trusting older adults to sell them worthless merchandise or try to gain access to credit card numbers.
As a global issue, we will see the adult population 60 and older grow from 542 million in 1995 to about 1.2 billion in 2025. Experts estimate that between 4 percent and 6 percent of the elders across the world will experience some form of mistreatment. This rate of mistreatment may increase as many nations, including the United States, experience a rapid aging of the population in the next 10 years.
The increased use of safety net programs — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — may also contribute to the pressures and insecurities of families who are trying to support an older parent. Care giving pressures are a factor on the incidence of abuse as care givers reach physical and psychological limits and burn out in their care giving role. This is when risk grows for abuse or neglect.
As you think about what you can do about elder abuse, there a few things to remember. The first thing is to be informed about what abuse or neglect is and understand what it looks like. The second is to stay in contact with older and/or disabled relatives, friends, neighbors and acquaintances. By staying in contact you can watch or listen for warning signs that something is wrong. Third, if you believe, or even suspect, that there is potential abuse, neglect or exploitation going on, please report the information to our agency, county human services programs or law enforcement. Keeping quiet is not a good option.
Scott Bond is the Director of Senior and Disability Services for Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments, the Area Agency on Aging for Benton, Linn, and Lincoln counties. He can be reached at 541-812-6008 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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