Consequences of elder abuse leave victims feeling isolated, vulnerable, powerless

As the population ages, a silent epidemic threatens to undermine the dignity and well-being of Ohio’s seniors. Elder abuse, an often hidden problem, can take many forms, from physical and emotional mistreatment to financial exploitation and neglect.

The consequences are devastating, leaving victims feeling isolated, vulnerable and powerless. Yet, it’s an issue that can be addressed with awareness, compassion and action.

Wayne County Adult Protective Services (APS) investigated 210 elder abuse calls for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2023.

“Older adults have the right to live free from harm, in peace, and with dignity,” Commissioner Jonathan Hofstetter read from a proclamation recognizing Elder Abuse Awareness Day recently in Wayne County. “The Wayne County Department of Job and Family Services will continue to work with other advocates and professionals to increase awareness and help fight elder abuse.”

Wayne County Commissioners David McMillen, left, and Jonathan Hofstetter, right, pose with Wayne County Department of Job and Family Services staff, Director Richard Owens, Social Services Administrator Stacey Tanner and Adult Protective Service Investigator Jourdan Krajcik after recognizing June 15 as National Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
Wayne County Commissioners David McMillen, left, and Jonathan Hofstetter, right, pose with Wayne County Department of Job and Family Services staff, Director Richard Owens, Social Services Administrator Stacey Tanner and Adult Protective Service Investigator Jourdan Krajcik after recognizing June 15 as National Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Elder abuse can take many forms and can be perpetrated by anyone, including family members, caregivers and strangers.

Elderly can be victim to many forms of abuse

According to the National Institute on Aging, types of abuse include:

  • Physical abuse - when someone causes bodily harm, for example, by hitting, pushing, or slapping. Physical abuse may also include restraining an older adult against their will, such as by locking them in a room or tying them to furniture.

  • Emotional abuse - sometimes called psychological abuse, can include a caregiver saying hurtful words, yelling, threatening, or repeatedly ignoring the older adult. Keeping that person from seeing close friends and relatives is another form of emotional abuse.

  • Neglect - occurs when the caregiver does not try to respond to the older adult’s needs. Neglect may include ignoring physical, emotional, and social needs, withholding food, medications, or access to health care.

  • Abandonment - leaving an older adult who needs help alone without planning for their care.

  • Sexual abuse - forcing an older adult to watch or be part of sexual acts.

  • Financial abuse - when money or belongings are misused or stolen from an older adult. It can include forging checks, taking someone else’s retirement or Social Security benefits, withholding access to money or financial information, or using a person’s credit cards and bank accounts without permission. It also includes changing names on a will, bank account, life insurance policy, or title to a house without permission.

  • While physical signs of abuse are outwardly visible, it’s also important to be aware of the signs of financial abuse, which can include unusual or unexplained withdrawals from their bank account, changes to their will or other financial documents, or the sudden appearance of a new friend or caregiver who may be exerting influence over them.

How to report suspected elder abuse in Wayne County

Elder abuse is often a hidden problem, with many cases going unreported and unnoticed. APS works to help keep Wayne County residents over the age of 60 safe.

When APS receives calls, caseworkers evaluate any risk to the safety and well-being of alleged victims. If they find a risk, caseworkers will work with families, social service agencies, and other community resources to meet the person’s needs and improve the situation.

During regular business hours, call 330-287-5865 to report elder abuse, neglect or exploitation of Wayne County residents aged 60 and older. All calls are confidential. On nights, weekends, and holidays, call 911 if abuse is suspected.

Dan Starcher is the Public Communications coordinator for Wayne County.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Record: Wayne Adult Protective Services investigated 210 elder abuse cases

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