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Protecting Our Elders Summit 2010 to Help Identify and Respond to Elder Abuse and Neglect

Free Sessions to Train Clergy, Lay Leaders and Caregivers

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF The County of Santa Clara Social Services Agency and the Department of Mental Health are partnering with The Archstone Foundation Protecting Our Elders: An Interfaith Response to Elder Abuse and Neglect Project to present Protecting our Elders Summit 2010.

The summit will take place Tuesday, September 21, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Quinlan Community Center, 10185 North Stelling Road in Cupertino. It will engage hundreds of members of the community, the clergy and lay leaders in separate discussions on how to identify, prevent and respond to elder abuse.

“Many elders in our county find comfort and understanding within their spiritual communities,” said County of Santa Clara Supervisor Dave Cortese, Chair of the Board’s Children, Seniors and Families Committee. “By providing congregations and caregivers with the right training and support, they will be able to identify signs of elder abuse and learn how to respond to it.”

The County of Santa Clara receives an average of 2,700 reports of different types of elder abuse per year. Victims of elder financial abuse have a three times higher mortality rate than those who are not victims. This situation might worsen as projections indicate that in Santa Clara County the population of older adults will double between 2000 and 2020, from approximately 220,000 to 428,300.

The summit will train those interested in the psychological and spiritual well-being of elders and will present mental health and caregiver resources and services available to elders in the community. Topics include: The Many Faces of Elder Abuse and Neglect, the DNA of Compassion, Caregiving and Receiving.

“Spiritual and lay leaders often earn the trust of older residents through long lasting relationships,” said Lee Pullen, Director of the Department of Aging and Adult Services. “They can do more than listen to victims by learning about services and resources available to them and to older community members who may be suffering some type of abuse.”

Elder abuse is not limited to any specific ethnic group or culture. A 2004 Senior Needs Assessment in Santa Clara County found that there were 1,114 confirmed incidents of elder abuse; 60.6 percent were self-neglect and 39.4 percent were abuse by others.

Many elder abuse, neglect and self-neglect victims suffer from depression, grief and other mental health concerns that often go unaddressed due to stigma and a lack of understanding about mental illness. The most prevalent mental health problems among seniors are depressive disorders (42.1 percent of older adults who received mental health services services in 2003).

“As so many of our elders seek comfort and guidance in their faith, our community faith leaders offer a vital link to care and support for elders in need,” said Dr. Nancy Peña, Director of Santa Clara County Mental Health Department. “It is so important that we provide these valuable leaders the knowledge and resource information that will assist them in linking victims to resources and services the County has to offer through Aging and Adult and Mental Health Services, and other community agencies. I am thrilled that we are able to be a part of this great learning opportunity.”

National data shows that elder abuse occurs primarily at home. Most likely perpetrators are
adult children of the victim, spouses and other relatives, but these crimes are the least reported
and prosecuted. The most common types of elder abuse are self-neglect, neglect by a caregiver,
financial and material exploitation, emotional, psychological and physical abuse.

Estimates from the National Center on Elder Abuse indicate that in the United States between one and two million people ages 65 and older have been injured, exploited or otherwise mistreated by someone on whom they depend for care of protection.

“There are approximately 700 congregations representing many diverse faith communities in Santa Clara County. Often, clergy and lay leaders, pastoral teams, ministries, and lay groups are on the frontlines potentially witnessing elder Abuse and neglect,” said Betty Malks, Interfaith Response to Elder Abuse and Neglect Project Director. “That is why this summit is so critical in helping them identify the signs and symptoms of elder abuse and neglect and learn what to do about it.”

Protecting our Elders Summit 2010 is sponsored by Santa Clara County Department of Mental Health, Santa Clara County Social Services Agency Department of Aging and Adult Services and The Archstone Foundation Protecting our Elders: An Interfaith Response to Elder Abuse and Neglect Project.

For information about the Summit, contact Betty Malks, Protecting our Elders: An Interfaith Response to Elder Abuse and Neglect Project Director, (408)489-1952.

About Protecting Our Elders: An Interfaith Response to Elder Abuse and Neglect

Protecting Our Elders: An Interfaith Response to Elder Abuse and Neglect is a project funded in part by The Archstone Foundation and Santa Clara County Department of Mental Health. The project is now in its fifth year to encourage faith communities to recognize and respond to elder abuse and neglect. It also supports working together to promote dignity, respect and an optimal quality of life for elders from all cultural and traditional backgrounds.


Media Contact: Gwendolyn Mitchell/Marina Hinestrosa, Office of Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119; Nicole Huff, Social Services Agency (408) 491-6750; Dr. Nancy Peña, Department of Mental Health (408) 885-5783
Posted: September 17, 2010