Elderly adults are a vital part of our society. Elderly adults contribute to their communities by donating their time to helping their families or through volunteering in the community. They also have an infinite amount of wisdom and experience that can help the younger population through tough times. The senior citizen population is also one of the fastest growing; by 2025, 1 in 4 adults in Ohio will be over the age of 60. As the number of senior citizens in our community increase, so must our vigilance as a community to be aware of the signs of abuse and report these incidents.
One of the most common misconceptions about Adult Protective Services workers is that we are there to remove senior citizens from their home and put them in a nursing home. This is not the case. Adult Protective Services operates based on the premise that we should enable clients to live in a safe and stable environment, provide the least restrictive change to a client’s situation, and to involve clients in the decision making process as much as possible. Our goal is to maximize our client’s independence, while also reducing or removing safety risks to the client. Most of the time, our clients can be connected with different community services while still allowing them to remain in their home. It is important to note that if an elder adult is competent, they are ultimately allowed to make their own decisions and to refuse help from Adult Protective Services.
June 15, 2021, is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. On this date, communities all across the world raise awareness for elder abuse. According to the National Council on Aging, 1 in 10 persons over the age of 60 experience some form of elder abuse, while only 1 in 24 instances of abuse are reported. Because elder abuse is so under-reported, it is necessary that community members stay vigilant to the safety and needs of our elderly population.
Elder abuse can come in many different forms: physical abuse, neglect/abandonment, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, or self-neglect. Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse all share some of the same red flags: unexplained bruising, changes in behavior, or becoming withdrawn. Neglect and abandonment share some of the same signs as well: individuals may have a sudden change in the care they are supposed to be receiving, appear malnourished, have bedsores, or have caregivers who are not following their doctor’s directions or giving medication properly.
With financial exploitation on the rise, there are many scams that take place over the phone or internet that target the elderly. It is important that senior citizens be aware that they should never give personal information out over the phone. For example, the IRS or Social Security Office will never call and request information over the phone. Families of senior citizens should educate themselves on different types of financial exploitation and do what they can to help the elderly individuals in their lives keep their information safe.
Self-neglect allegations account for most of the cases of elder abuse in Shelby County. Self-neglect is when an elderly person has behaviors that threaten their own health and safety. Signs of self-neglect could be not following doctor’s recommendations, hazardous or unsanitary living conditions, or not being able to provide themselves with adequate food/water. Sometimes services can be put into place to help alleviate these conditions if the adult is still wanting to remain in their home.
What can you do to help the elderly in our community? Keep in contact with your elderly relatives, friends, and family. Be aware and vigilant of the signs of abuse or neglect. If you have an elderly neighbor, and you haven’t seen them in a few days, take 5 minutes out of your day to check on them. If you are concerned, or feel that a report needs to be made, you can contact Adult Protective Services at 937-498-4981.
The writer is an adult protective services caseworker with the Shelby County Job and Family Services,