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WEAAD-Logo-400World Elder Abuse Awareness Day provides an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect. Every year an estimated 5 million older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Experts believe that for every case of elder abuse or neglect reported, as many as 23 cases go unreported. There has been a rise in the number of reports of elder abuse cases in Massachusetts from fiscal years 2011 to 2015 according to the Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA). On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day we take this opportunity to discuss the very real problem of elder abuse and to provide to communities the information they need to notice and take action to stop the abuse of some of our most vulnerable residents.

“Working with older adults to help them to live well and thrive is a top priority for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs,” said Secretary Alice Bonner. “Protecting elders from abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation is part of that goal. We encourage everyone to come together to take a stand against abuse and to reach out to support elders in your community.”

What you should know about elder abuse:

What are the major issues facing elderly people who are neglected, abused, or in other difficult circumstances?

Elder abuse is a problem that spans all socio-economic groups, is under recognized and under reported.  Elders who are abused often struggle alone, contending with physical and emotional trauma.  The U.S. Administration on Aging estimates that as many as 1 in 10 older Americans are abused or neglected each year.  Freedom from abuse or neglect is a basic human right; as a society, failure to protect vulnerable elders from abuse or neglect diminishes all of us. Elder abuse can be financial, emotional, physical or sexual. It also includes people who are neglected and those who neglect themselves (self-neglect). While studies show that most abusers are family members, trusted professionals and service providers may also target older adults. Abuse can happen in any setting: in the older adult’s own home, nursing homes, or assisted living facilities.

What are some of the major areas of concern in Massachusetts, and how does your department assist those in need?

The Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) administers a statewide system for receiving and investigating reports of elder abuse, and for providing needed protective services to abused elders when warranted. To fulfill this responsibility, Elder Affairs has established 20 designated Protective Services (PS) agencies throughout the Commonwealth to respond to reports of elder abuse. The state provides elder protective services for all individuals over the age of 60 residing in the community regardless of income. Elder abuse includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse, neglect by a caregiver, self-neglect and financial exploitation. The goal of protective services is to remedy or alleviate the abusive situation and to prevent the reoccurrence of abuse. EOEA offers many other in-home services to elders, reducing isolation that can leave older adults at higher risk for abuse.

Loss of housing is probably the biggest issue for lower income elders who are abused. Scams and financial exploitation continue to be a growing area of vulnerability for all seniors.

In fiscal year 2015, 24,978 elder abuse reports were received and there were 7,117 newly confirmed allegations of elder abuse.  These numbers represent an increase of 37% of the total number of elder abuse reports and a 57% increase in confirmed allegations compared to FY 2011.  Protective Services cases are divided into two categories: investigation and ongoing services.  Investigations are conducted to determine if elder abuse has occurred.  In FY 2015 the average number of investigations completed per month was 1,051.  Once elder abuse is determined to have occurred, the case may move on to provide different types of services or supports to address and end the abuse.  In FY 2015 the average number of case in ongoing services per month was 1,028.  This means that in total, for FY 2015 the average total number of cases per month in Protective Services was 2,079.

What can people do to help?

Every person can make a difference in their local community. If someone you know shows signs of abuse or neglect, reach out. We need to talk more about the problem, raise awareness of the issue, engage every community in local solutions and educate others about the impact of elder abuse and neglect.

To help, people should report suspected elder abuse via our Elder Abuse Hotline: 1-800-922-2275.

For more information: http://www.mass.gov/elders/service-orgs-advocates/protective-services-program.html

See link to “Red Flags of Abuse” flier http://ncea.aoa.gov/Resources/Publication/docs/NCEA_RedFlags_web508.pdf

See link to “Protect Yourself” flier http://ncea.aoa.gov/Resources/Publication/docs/NCEA_ProtectYourself_508.pdf

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