Our vulnerable seniors need help

Friday is World Elder Abuse Prevention Day. Many older adults will experience the devastating consequences of elder abuse. Physical and emotional abuse; neglect; financial exploitation; and abandonment are all considered forms of elder abuse. It occurs everywhere and crosses all socio-economic groups, cultures and races. It is a serious and widespread social justice problem, as well as a major health issue.

The facts are shocking! One in 10 people over 60 in this country is a victim of some sort of abuse. For every elder abuse case reported, five times as many go unreported. It is estimated that seniors lose more than $2.9 billion annually from financial exploitation. Sadly, it is often committed by a family member and is one of the most difficult to prosecute. Fraud or scams, like phony lotteries or investment opportunities, are also forms of financial exploitation.

Elder abuse prevention requires research, education, advocacy and public awareness. Recently, Senior Services of Snohomish County, together with the Vulnerable Adult Abuse Task Force of Snohomish County, hosted an educational conference for local professionals and was sponsored by Verdant Health Commission and International Association of Forensic Nurses. The message is that as a community, there are many things we can do to help prevent elder abuse:

Report suspected abuse to Adult Protective Services. 800-487-0416. You cannot stop what you don’t report!

Keep in contact with older friends, neighbors and relatives to reduce the risk of harm.

Be aware. Observe older family members, friends and neighbors. Are they unusually withdrawn, fearful, anxious – especially around certain people?

Contact Senior Services of Snohomish County 425.513.1900. We provide programs that help seniors maintain their health, well-being and independence – a good defense against abuse.

Important new legislation is being introduced in the House and Senate in elder abuse prevention including stronger penalties for those who commit elder abuse. Tell your elected officials to invest in prevention and savings through elder abuse legislation and funding.

Learn more about the issue at www.ncea.aoa.gov.

And finally, on Friday, wear purple in support of World Elder Abuse Prevention Day. Tell your friends, co-workers and neighbors. Together we have the power to end elder abuse.

Jim Steinruck, CEO

Senior Services of Snohomish County