Donna Fayko: Elder abuse reports on the rise as awareness increases

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 25, 2018

Elder abuse is widespread. Every year an estimated one in 10 older Americans are victims of abuse, neglect or exploitation, and that’s only part of the picture.

Experts believe that elder abuse is significantly underreported, in part because so many of our communities lack the social supports that would make it easier for those who experience abuse to report it.

Research suggests that as few as one in 14 cases of elder abuse come to the attention of authorities.

The National Adult Protective Association reports the following facts on elder abuse:

• Elder abuse is a rampant, largely invisible, expensive and lethal problem.

• Older abuse victims are three times more likely to die than nonvictimized older persons.

• Elder abuse costs victims, their families, financial institutions and taxpayers tens of billions of dollars a year.

• Older adults and younger adults with disabilities are the only victims of crime and abuse who receive no designated support for protective and other victim services from the U.S. government.

Elder abuse refers to intentional or negligent acts by a caregiver or trusted individual that causes harm to an older person.

Elder abuse takes on many forms, including abuse, financial exploitation, exploitation of the person, caretaker neglect, self-neglect, and abuse.

In fiscal year 2017-18, the Rowan County Department of Social Services has seen a 26 percent increase in Adult Protective Services calls and a 75 percent increase in cases accepted for an APS evaluation.

The significant increase in reports suggests the community at large is recognizing and reporting concerns of abuse, neglect or exploitation to keep elders and disabled adults safe.

Across North Carolina, social services employees are helping meet the needs of our state’s most vulnerable populations. They serve as first responders in cases of abuse and neglect.

In July 2017, the Rowan County Department of Social Services Adult Services developed a multidisciplinary team with professionals from diverse disciplines to improve our work together in the protection of vulnerable adults.

This collaborative effort is expected to provide opportunities for members to share experiences, insight and perspectives, and improve service response.

We believe that this is a wonderful opportunity to bring awareness to the issue of elder abuse in Rowan County and improve outcomes for the most vulnerable adults in our community.

If you suspect an elderly or disabled adult is being abused, neglected or exploited, please call 704-216-8331 to report your concerns.

Let’s keep our elders and disabled adults safe.

Donna Fayko is director of the Rowan County Department of Social Services.