SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. — Research indicates that one out of every 10 elder Americans is abused or neglected. Even more troubling, for every case of elder abuse reported, it is believed that twenty-three are not. Because abuse is one of the most challenging issues facing senior citizens, the County of Santa Clara will be supporting the United Nations’ annual recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15.
“Santa Clara County values the contributions and legacy of our older residents,” said County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors President Ken Yeager. “We are committed to vigorous enforcement of laws that prevent and/or punish elder 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 and protection. Projections indicate that by 2050, the global population of people above the age of 60 will exceed the number of younger people. These changes have led to a worldwide recognition of the problems and challenges that face the elderly. On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, individual organizations from across the world are asked to raise awareness of the various types of abuse to which older individuals are subjected.
Many elder abuse, neglect and self-neglect victims suffer from depression, grief and other mental health concerns that often go unaddressed due lack of understanding about mental illness. National data shows that elder abuse occurs primarily at home, and 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, mental suffering and physical abuse.
“Our senior population is growing, and too often older residents in our county are victims of neglect and mistreatment,” said County of Santa Clara Supervisor Joe Simitian, Chair of the Board’s Children, Seniors and Families Committee. “Our responsibility is to prevent senior and elder abuse whenever we can; and to protect our older residents from those who would abuse them. The programs and resources we have in place are important tools in safeguarding the dignity and well-being of local seniors.”
Because of the unique economic nature of Santa Clara County, financial abuse is prevalent and on the rise, accounting for approximately 30 reports each month. Many elders have worked hard to pay off their mortgages and maintain ownership of their homes, which, regardless of how modest they are, can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in Silicon Valley. Family members may move in with them without their consent, and scam artists and unscrupulous strangers prey upon elders’ resources.
The Adult Protective Services (APS) division works daily to stop elder abuse, whether it is financial, physical, emotional, neglect, exploitation or any other form of maltreatment. Self-neglect is also increasingly common with the aging population. Of an average of 260 new reports to APS each month, self-neglect accounts for 108 reports. The Social Services Agency has 19 Adult Protective Services social workers that investigate and assess abuse reports and work with the client, and often family and friends, to stop abuse and put in place a service plan.
Addressing the issues facing the growing population of seniors in Santa Clara County is the focus of the recently implemented strategic plan, the Seniors’ Agenda, lead by the Department of Aging and Adult Services. This community wide effort is working to improve transportation, information and assistance, housing, volunteerism, policies and funding and making systemic changes to improve the quality of life for our older adults.
“We are committed to working with community stakeholders and advocates to end elder abuse and reassure the older generation in our County that they matter to us,” said Bruce Wagstaff, Director of Santa Clara County Social Services Agency. “Our Senior Agenda provides us with a road map to direct our efforts to maintain a high quality of life for Santa Clara County older adults.”
If elder abuse is suspected, the public is encouraged to call the Adult Protective Services (APS) 24-hour Adult Abuse Reporting Line at (408) 975-4900 or 1-800-414-2002. Reports will be investigated within 10 calendar days or sooner, depending on the urgency of the call. For emergencies callers should dial 911.
Media Contact: Gwendolyn Mitchell/Marina Hinestrosa, Office of Public Affairs (408) 299-5119; Kristina Cunningham, Adult Protective Services (408) 293-975-4900; Stanley Lee, Social Services Agency (408) 755-7773
Posted: June 14, 2013