Reporting elder abuse: protecting our vulnerable neighbors
According to the Department of Senior and Adult Services (DSAS), the provider of Adult Protective Services (APS) for Cuyahoga County, there were 3,426 cases of alleged elder abuse reported last year. The problem, however, may be even larger than that. The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) estimates that 84% of incidents are not reported to authorities.
There are several forms of elder abuse: physical, sexual, psychological, financial, neglect and self-neglect. Self-neglect accounted for the majority of the cases reported to APS last year, followed by caretaker neglect. Self-neglect is not voluntary. It occurs when an impairment prevents the senior from adequately taking care of him or herself.
Many people are afraid to report suspected elder abuse because they don’t want to meddle, or are afraid of the consequences if their suspicions are wrong. The Ohio Revised Code, however, which governs the actions of the APS, allows abuse reports to be given anonymously and also protects reporters from punishment.
APS protects those seniors who are living independently. Those living in group facilities are protected by the Long Term Care Ombudsman (LTCO). Like the APS, reports to the LTCO can be made anonymously.
There are a few ways in which we can help protect the elderly in our community. Linda Noelker, senior vice president of the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging (BRI), recommends that neighbors be vigilant and note any unusual activity. “Be in communication with your older neighbors,” she recommended. “Get to know what’s normal for them.”
Georgia Anetzberger, NCPEA president, suggests that neighbors be alert for the following warning signs: suspicious bruises, unkempt appearance, neglect of house or yard, change in finances and unfamiliar visitors.
The Cleveland Heights Office on Aging (OA) offers several safeguards to protect our elders: employees of their Meals on Wheels and transportation services check in on seniors daily; they can recommend reputable home care agencies; and they can also help seniors obtain an emergency alert system.
The Cleveland Heights Home Repair Resource Center (HRRC) has a new senior repair specialist who helps seniors find reputable contractors and get fair estimates, and ensure that the repair work is done correctly.
According to APS, financial exploitation of elders is on the rise. On July 25, BRI is hosting a forum on financial protection for older adults to address this issue. Contact BRI for more information at 216-791-8000.
If you suspect elder abuse, please report it. Call the APS 24-hour hotline at 216-420-6700, or the LTCO at 800-365-3112.
You can reach NCPEA at 646-462-3603, OA at 216-691-7377, and HRRC at 216-381-6100 ext. 22.
Judith Eugene is a native of Cleveland Heights who provides life-enrichment classes and activities for senior adults and those with physical and mental challenges through www.LovingHandsGroup.com. She may be reached at 216-408-5578 or Judith@LovingHandsGroup.com