June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month; Wear purple on June 15

HCJFS Adult Protective Services (APS) is marking Elder Abuse Awareness Month by working to raise awareness of elder abuse and the resources available in Hamilton County to combat it.

On Friday, June 15, all Hamilton County residents are encouraged to wear purple to help raise awareness of elder abuse.

To report elder abuse in Hamilton County, call 421-LIFE (5433). 421-LIFE is always available. APS workers are available to respond to emergencies any time of day. Many after-hour emergencies require emergency assistance.

Adult Protective Services is a unit within Hamilton County Job & Family Services charged with assessing the safety of elderly members of our community. The agency is mandated by the State of Ohio to receive and investigate reports of elder abuse in Hamilton County.

The agency responds to emergency and non-emergency situations. An emergency situation would be life-threatening circumstances such as being without heat, utilities, food or a caregiver; or recent physical abuse.

An investigation includes a home visit to meet with the older adult, as well as contact with other sources. The agency will offer services to reduce risk. The investigation may also involve other agencies such as county and city health inspectors, police, mental health services and medical providers.

Ohio law defines an elder as an adult more than 60 years old who has a physical or mental impairment which prevents them from providing for their own care or protection, and who resides in an independent living arrangement.

In Hamilton County, APS investigates nearly 500 allegations of abuse each year. Referrals usually come from professionals (mandated reporters), friends, neighbors and family members. Mandated reporters include attorneys, peace officers, dentists, chiropractors, physicians, podiatrists, clergy members, coroners, senior service providers, psychologists, hospital employees, social workers, counselors.

Elder abuse is largely under-reported because the population most effected by elder abuse tends to be isolated. Also, elder victims do not report abuse because of shame or embarrassment, fear of retaliation, a sense of resignation or powerlessness, family loyalty, or fear of nursing homes or institutions.

Elder abuse includes:

  • Physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
  • Neglect by caregivers
  • Self-neglect
  • Exploitation in which the elder’s funds or assets are misused or misappropriated.

More than half of the reports received are for self-neglect.  Examples of self-neglect include: hoarding, failure to take essential medications or refusal to seek medical treatment for serious illness, leaving a burning stove unattended, poor hygiene, not wearing suitable clothing for the weather, confusion, inability to attend to housekeeping, and dehydration.

Neglect occurs when daily living needs are not met by a caregiver. Unintentional neglect could be an elderly husband who is caring for his elderly wife and not meeting her needs because he is forgetful or unable. In a case like that, we really have two victims. An example of intentional neglect is a caregiver deliberately withholding necessities such as food, medical treatment or personal care.

Exploitation is the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a vulnerable elder.

The elder victim has a say in what happens. The majority of the older adults involved are competent to make decisions for themselves. They generally drive what services or assistance they may want from APS, even to the point of refusing APS intervention. There are situations though where the older adult lacks the ability to make informed decisions due to dementia or other related impairments and APS is able to intervene in their best interest and provide the support and services they need to reduce the risk.  We look to maintain the older adult in their home as that is where most people want to remain.

Adult Protective Services does not take guardianship of a client. In some circumstances, the agency will give family members information so they can pursue guardianship, or refer to attorneys of volunteer guardians. In other circumstances, APS facilitates guardianship with a contract agency, Cincinnati Area Senior Services. That agency provides guardians employed by the agency when family isn’t an option. Guardians are required to attend court hearings and then visit the ward monthly in the nursing home.

There is a need for volunteer guardians. Potential guardians must complete a six-hour class.  There is also an option to take the class on line. Many of the cases requiring guardians of APS clients are challenging family dynamics. If interested, see www.probatect.org or contact Stephanie Hull at 513-946-2369.

by Ashley Woods

Filed Under: News

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