Many people know Hamilton County’s Department of Job and Family Services for its child welfare program. In fact, a lot of people don’t even call us by our name – they call us 241-KIDS, which is the name of our child abuse reporting hotline.
While we are very serious about our role of helping protect the youngest members of our community, we have a lesser-known role in helping our community’s older adults, too. 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 approximately 750 adults per year in this capacity. Elder abuse takes many forms: The senior citizen with no family who can no longer take care of themselves due to Alzheimer’s or diminished mental capacity. The loving husband who can no longer physically care for his disabled wife. The grandmother who receives an eviction notice after giving her rent money to her grandson. The grandfather who is locked away in isolation while his family cashes his retirement checks.
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.
One thing is clear: elder abuse is unacceptable. We as a community must do everything we can to protect our senior citizens. I ask that you help us in that cause. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, here are some warning signs:
• Bruises, pressure marks, 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 may be the result of exploitation.
• Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect.
• 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 are also signs.
If you know someone who is exhibiting these warning signs, please call our elder abuse hotline, 421-LIFE. We know there are more than 750 people in this community who are victims of elder abuse. Our agency is here to help. Point us in the right direction.