Pierce County will join in the observation of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Friday, June 15, as the world voices its opposition to elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. On this day, we extend our support to elder victims and their loved ones, recognizing with gratitude those who have committed their lives to protecting older Americans, and affirm their unwavering commitment to combatting elder mistreatment in all its forms.
While many Americans are enjoying longer, healthier lives, far too many older Americans are suffering in the shadows. Some studies suggest that up to 10 percent of seniors worldwide may suffer some form of physical abuse, psychological or verbal abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation or neglect. Likewise, other studies suggest that older American adults may suffer billions in losses because of financial fraud and exploitation.
On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Pierce County’s Human Services Department gives a voice to those who have suffered from elder abuse and lets the community know we are committed to supporting those who combat elder mistreatment.
“Each year our Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) receives more than 20,000 calls. Often callers are concerned about an older family member, friend or neighbor and aren’t sure what to do,” says Aaron Van Valkenburg, Pierce County Aging and Disability Resources manager. “We are able to connect older adults with resources or send a case manager to the home to review options. So much can be done to protect and support older adults and improve their quality of life.”
Elder abuse can be the result of intentional or unintentional neglect. It can take many forms – physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, financial abuse and sexual abuse, making it multi-layered, complex and insidious. Unfortunately, it occurs in every demographic and can happen to anyone – a family member, a neighbor, even you. There is stigma attached to elder abuse that keeps many victims from coming forward, while others are not capable of reporting crimes due to physical or mental ailments. As older adults because more physically frail, they are less able to take care of themselves, stand up to bullying, or fight back if attacked. Many older adults are abused in their own homes, in relatives’ homes and even in facilities responsible for their care. It is important that if there is suspicion that an elderly person is at risk of neglect, physical abuse, undue influence or being preyed upon financially, that it is reported immediately. If you see it, report it.
Pierce County is working on multiple fronts to protect older Americans from elder mistreatment. We want to encourage people in the community to call the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) for non-emergent situations if they are concerned about an elderly or disabled neighbor, friend, or family member. Staff at the ADRC can conduct telephone reassurance calls to provide wellness checks for vulnerable adults in the community. In the past, concerned doctors, coworkers, and even mailmen have called to understand the different types of elder abuse and what warning signs to look out for.
While some progress has been made in stemming the tide of elder abuse and financial exploitation, there is so much that we still must accomplish. So, on this World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, we ask all Pierce County residents to join us in our efforts to prevent and combat all forms of elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. As a community, we need to look out for one another.
“Every day, I think of my grandmother. I am reminded that we must honor and care for those that once cared for us. It is our responsibility to stop in its tracks elder abuse and neglect,” said Pete Ansara, Pierce County Human Services director.
If you see something, say something. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or check on someone’s well-being. Pierce County staff are available to help. Please join us in our effort to raise awareness of this global social issue and contact the ADRC at 253-798-4600 or 1-800-562-0332 if you or someone you know may be a victim of elder abuse.
You can also call Washington State Department of Social & Health Services (DSHS) ENDHARM toll free at 1-866-ENDHARM (1-866-363-4276) to report vulnerable adult and child abuse and neglect.
Learn more about the warning signs and prevention of elder abuse, as well as how to protect yourself or someone you know from financial exploitation.
To contact Adult Protective Services in Pierce County for reports on allegations of abuse, abandonment, neglect, self-neglect and financial exploitation of vulnerable adults living in the community and in facilities, fill out the online form here or call 1-877-734-6277. You can also call 9-1-1.
To file an elder fraud complaint and learn more about senior fraud, click here.
Peter Ansara, Human Services Director