If you live in Hamilton County, there is a good chance you know the number to our child abuse reporting hotline, 241-KIDS, by heart. But how many are as well acquainted with 421-LIFE?
JFS operates an Adult Protective Services unit that is charged with protecting the community’s senior citizens from exploitation, neglect, and physical and psychological abuse. Our agency assists more than 500 adults per year in this capacity.
I suspect there are many more victims. According to best estimates, between one and two million U.S. citizens fall prey to elder abuse each year. Solid statistics are difficult to come by because much abuse goes unreported, there is no uniform reporting method and definitions of abuse vary. Even when an older person reports abuse, it might not be believed because the person suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Elder abuse takes many forms:
- The elderly neighbor who forgets he is cooking and lets the pot boil over, causing a fire. Is it Alzheimer’s or dementia?
- The grandmother who receives an eviction notice after giving her rent money to her grandson. Is he taking advantage of someone who can’t protect herself?
- The father who urinates in his chair because he can’t make it to the bathroom, earning a smack on the head from his son. Is he the victim of abuse?
- The loving husband caring for his bedridden wife, but too weak to change the sheets. Are his noble intentions putting them both at risk?
Our agency is charged with identifying the risks to older adults and getting them the help they need. If necessary, we will help identify a guardian through the courts for individuals who can no longer function on their own.
While most people assume elder abuse to be the predominant type of case our APS unit handles, we see as much or more situations where senior citizens are at risk of hurting themselves.
In fact, we have seen an increase in referrals of people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. These folks often don’t have family to help them make decisions. Our investigators will make contact with the elderly residents and request a psychological evaluation if needed. Through the Probate Court, a guardian may be appointed, to help make decisions on their behalf. Although our Adult Protective Services unit works to keep elderly residents in their homes when possible, a guardian can also ensure they are placed in a safe facility where they are protected.
We have also experienced more and more reports of scams targeting the elderly, either through large organizations or through family members. Our investigators will work with those who have lost money and, when necessary, appoint a guardian.
Even with the increases, I know there are more people in Hamilton County who need our services. I cringe every time I read or see a news story about an elderly individual who has become a victim of someone they thought was a friend or trusted relative, or who has fallen prey to a scam.
If you know someone in this situation, call our elder abuse reporting hotline. My goal is to make 421-LIFE as well known in this community as 241-KIDS.