How Can We Help an Elderly Neighbor?

Stop elder abuseWhat would you do if you suspected that your elderly neighbor was being taken advantage of by a family member?

Hopefully, most of us would do something to help our neighbor but it is possible that we might choose to "mind our own business".  Such a choice does not mean we are being heartless. We're reluctant to get involved in situations unless we are asked to help especially when it potentially means pitting family members against one another. Some of us don't know where to turn to try to assist; elderly folks worry about their own safety if they do step in and everyone is concerned that we might be misjudging the situation which, in turn, will ruin our relationship with the neighbor.

Almost every city and county across the country has a solution to this problem that they hope will put your mind at ease. States have Adult Protective Services (APS) within their local Department of Social Services that allows a concerned citizen to report their suspicions to a trained social worker who will visit the neighbor and assess the situation.

According to the “Report on Adult Protective Services: Training of Mandated Reporters and Public Awareness Strategies" prepared by the Virginia Department of Social Services for the Governor and General Assembly in 2004, the best national estimate of the incidence and reporting of elder abuse and neglect is that only 16 percent of all incidences are reported to APS. Nationally, the number of unreported incidents is five times greater than the number of cases reported to APS (National Elder Abuse Incidence Study (NCAIS), 1998). Many researchers have indicated that we have just seen the “tip of the iceberg” of reported adult abuse cases. Based on national data of unreported abuse, there could be another 60,000 cases of adult abuse, neglect, and exploitation that occur annually in Virginia that are not reported (and that was in 2004!)

This report goes on tell us that the most important factors in recognizing adult abuse is just knowing what it is: elder abuse can take many forms such as financial; physical; emotional; or, sexual abuse. Cases can even include neglect by a caretaker, abandonment, isolation, abduction or self-neglect—and many involve more than one type of abuse. Once identified, the next step is vital if we are to be successful at eliminating the abuse: we must have the funds to provide sufficient home and community-based services. It is all well and good to raise awareness of adult abuse but if we truly wish to have a significant impact on the effectiveness of adult abuse prevention programs we must have the funds to provide needed services to this at-risk population if they are to be able to thrive in our communities.

Reference: The Avery (NC) Journal-Times (February 17, 2016) "Safe steps when suspecting elder abuse"


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