Every year an estimated 5 million, or one in 10, older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect or exploitation. Elder abuse can occur anywhere: in the home, or in nursing homes or other institutions. It affects seniors across all socio-economic groups, cultures and races.
The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations launched the first World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on June 15, 2006, in an effort to raise awareness about elder abuse. WEAAD serves as a call-to-action for individuals and organizations, businesses and communities to raise awareness about abuse, neglect and exploitation of elders. Each year, on June 15, Howard County joins with communities around the world to recognize World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The 2015 theme is “One person. One action. One nation. United against elder abuse.”
WEAAD offers an opportunity to share information and spread awareness about those who fall victim to physical, sexual, psychological or emotional abuse, neglect and financial exploitation in later life. Most cases of elder abuse go undetected. In fact, for every case of elder abuse or neglect that is reported, as many as 23.5 cases may go unreported.
One reason is that those older adults who are targeted tend to be the most isolated of all victims of family violence. They are likely to have fewer social connections in the community that normally would be an avenue of help.
What You Can Do
If you suspect an older adult is a victim of physical, emotional or sexual abuse, neglect or exploitation, call 9-1-1. Don’t assume that someone has already reported a suspicious situation. One person and one action can make a difference. Here are some things you can do to help.
- Become informed; learn the types of abuse and how to recognize the different signs of abuse.
- Report suspected abuse in nursing homes and assisted living facilities by contacting the Howard County Long Term Care Ombudsman Program at 410-313-6423.
- Report suspected abuse in the community by contacting the Howard County Department of Social Services: Adult Protective Services at 410-872-8700.
- Keep in contact with older relatives, friends and neighbors.
- Volunteer with a program that provides assistance and support services to older adults.
For more information about what you can do to spot and prevent elder abuse, download “12 Things Anyone Can Do to Prevent Elder Abuse” and “Red Flags of Abuse” from The National Center on Elder Abuse web site, www.ncea.aoa.gov, or visit www.howardcountyaging.org/eldersafety for more information and a list of local resources.
Senior citizens in Howard County, as well as the rest of the United States, also are often targets of scams and fraud, which are forms of financial abuse. The Howard County Office of Consumer Affairs educates the public on how to avoid being a victim of a scam and prevent fraud, and also handles complaints against businesses. To find out more about these services or to report a case of suspected financial exploitation of an elder, call 410-313-6420 or e-mail [email protected].
June 12 Conference
To increase local awareness of elder abuse and support prevention, the Howard County Department of Citizen Services, the Office on Aging, the Howard County Mental Health Authority and the Howard County Police Department will present the 2nd Annual Protecting Vulnerable Adults Conference on Friday, June 12, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the Sheraton in Columbia, 10207 Wincopin Circle. Anyone who works with older adults is encouraged to attend, including advocates, fiduciaries, first responders, medical professionals and others.
The keynote speech, “Addressing Financial Exploitation of Vulnerable Adults,” will be delivered by Philip Marshall, author of Broken Trust: The Brooke Astor Story. (Marshall is Brooke Astor’s grandson and an Elder Justice Advocate.) Admission is free, but seating is limited and registration is required. Register online at https://eventbrite.com/event/16163129355.
If you need a sign language interpreter or other accommodations to attend the conference, contact Maryland Access Point (MAP) at 410-313-5980 or e-mail [email protected] one week in advance.
For more information, contact Ofelia Ross Ott, division manager, Home and Community Based Services, Howard County Office on Aging, at 410-313-6052 or e-mail [email protected].