Speak up for those who can’t during Elder Abuse Awareness Month

June 21, 2017 | 9:07 am


More than 500,000 incidents of elder abuse are reported to authorities each year in the United States. Additionally, an estimated 5 million, or 1 in 10, older Americans are abused or neglected each year, according to the U.S. Administration on Aging.

Sadly, many cases go unreported.

During June’s Elder Abuse Awareness Month, Chain | Cohn | Stiles wants to remind everyone of the importance of speaking up for those who can’t — our oldest, frailest and most vulnerable citizens. For decades, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been at the forefront in fighting for victims of elder abuse in Bakersfield, Kern County and beyond. For example:

Joining Chain | Cohn | Stiles in honoring the awareness month locally, the Kern County Board of Supervisors recently proclaimed June as Elder Abuse Awareness month as well.

In all, Elder Abuse Awareness Month aims to focus attention on the problem of physical, emotional, and financial abuse of elders. It also seeks to understand the challenges and opportunities presented by an ageing population, and brings together senior citizens, and their caregivers, national and local government, academics, and the private sector to exchange ideas about how best to reduce incidents of violence towards elders, increase reporting of such abuse, and to develop elder friendly policies.

A challenge, however, lies in the reporting of elder abuse and neglect. For every case known to programs and agencies, 24 are unknown; for financial abuse, only one in 44 cases is known, according to the National Center of Elder Abuse.

So why does elder abuse go unreported? Many times, elders have no family to report to. They also fear retaliation from “caregivers,” or they feel shame in regards to abuse. Another reason is they fear they will lose independence, or fear they will upset their own family members. Many times, however, victims simply lack understanding of how to report abuse.

Another issue lies is recognizing elder abuse and neglect. In fact, elder abuse can take many forms including:

  • Physical abuse: Inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior (slapping, bruising or restraining by physical or chemical means).
  • Sexual Abuse: Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
  • Neglect: The failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.
  • Exploitation: The illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit.
  • Emotional Abuse: Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts (humiliating, intimidating, or threatening).
  • Abandonment: Desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
  • Self-neglect: Characterized as the failure of a person to perform essential, self-care tasks and that such failure threatens his/her own health or safety.

Lastly, how do you recognize elder abuse and neglect, and what are the warning signs. Here are a few of them:

  • Bruises, broken bones, abrasions and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect or mistreatment.
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
  • Sudden changes in financial situations.
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene and unusual weight loss.
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person.
  • If you notice changes in a senior’s personality or behavior, you should start to question what is going on.

It’s important to alert others if you have suspicions, and to retain an attorney. In an emergency, call 9-1-1. To report cases of elder abuse, whether it is on your own behalf or that of someone you know, please call Adult Protective Services as part of the Kern County Aging & Adult Services, or contact the Long-Term Care Ombudsman.

  • Adult Protective Services (APS) responds to reports from individuals, concerned citizens, social service and health providers, and law enforcement representatives about developmental disabled adults, physically and mentally disabled adults, and the elderly who may be physically or financially abused, neglected, or exploited. Upon receipt of a referral, APS sends a social worker to make a home visit or contact the elder or dependent adult. Reach the 24-hour hotline at 800-277-7866 or 661-868-1006.
  • The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program investigates elder abuse complaints in long-term care facilities and in residential care facilities for the elderly. The primary responsibility of the program is to investigate and endeavor to resolve complaints made by, or on behalf of, individual residents in these facilities, including nursing homes, residential care facilities for the elderly, and assisted living facilities. The goal of the program is to advocate for the rights of all residents in long term care. You can reach them at 661-323-7884.

— By Alyssa Wood for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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If someone you know is the victim of elder abuse or neglect, it’s important to retain an elder abuse lawyer right away. Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been representing victims of elder abuse and neglect for decades. Reach the elder abuse law firm at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website bakersfieldelderabuse.com.