Elder abuse comes in many forms and has grown into a nationwide epidemic. Worse, the COVD-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the phenomenon, experts say.
To heighten awareness of something each of us might one day face and which may already be affecting family members, Mayor Victor Gordo has proclaimed Wednesday, June 15, as Elder Abuse Awareness Day in Pasadena.
The City and the Wise and the Healthy Aging Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program said elder abuse can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time.
Purple flags now seen around City Hall signify the number of abuses reported by Pasadena residents and honor those who have been affected by elder abuse.
“It’s (elder abuse) a big problem that the pandemic has helped make worse. It’s been a big problem for a long time in different areas of how seniors live,” Akila Gibbs, Executive Director of the Pasadena Senior Center said.
A study published by the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry suggests that one in every five seniors has experienced elder abuse during the pandemic, an increase of nearly 84 percent compared to estimates before 2020.
In Pasadena, nonprofits that serve the senior community — such as Pasadena Village and the Pasadena Senior Center — shed light on the common problem of elder abuse, ways to detect it and what we can do to help the senior community recognise this problem.
“Everyone should be aware that elder abuse is an epidemic,” said Wayne April, Chair of the Educational Programs Committee at Pasadena Village.
Commemorating Elder Abuse Day also serves to remind families that abusers can come from even people who appear to be friendly and frequently offer to help seniors.
“It can be strangers, neighbors, friends, family, even former trusted advisors,” April continued. “Some don’t start being abusers, but slide into it over time, especially if the senior loses capacity. Others do it for a living and count on using the senior’s naivety and cognitive loss to their advantage.”
April suggests that seniors can find it easier to tell others about potential threats or report abusers to authorities by staying connected to a social network, especially if they don’t have strong family connections. With a trusted social network, seniors will have a variety of people they can share their concerns with.
Gibbs said what is worrisome about elder abuse is that only a few of the victims, and even fewer of those whom potential abusers have attempted to victimize, actually report to the proper authorities.
“In Los Angeles County, 28 percent of those surveyed say they suffered some form of neglect or what we would call elder abuse – a pretty high number,” Gibbs said. “But we suspect that the numbers that are reporting now are lower in large part, because what would happen if people stopped going to places where elders were seen. So people stopped coming to the Senior Center. I’ve reported on elder abuse on many occasions.”
Gibbs acknowledges that many older adults have been isolated because of COVID-9, which has also put a lot of strain on the people who are caring for them.
“So the numbers are way up, and that’s why this year is very important for people to understand what elder abuse is, understand how to report it and understand how to recognize it,” Gibbs said.
Staff at the Pasadena Senior Center have trained in countering elder abuse and helping seniors spot potential abusers either in person or online. They’ve also been oriented on several types of elder abuse to watch out for.
“There’s physical abuse where people are literally being hit. There’s sexual elder abuse, there’s abandonment, where their family or friends just take off and leave them,” Gibbs said. “There’s emotional or psychological abuse which I’ve seen a lot of, and financial abuse, which I have really seen a lot of and self-neglect. And we see that a lot.”
The Pasadena Police Department actively monitors cases of elder abuse and acts to advance the prosecution of those who are caught abusing seniors.
In 2021, the Police Department either received or investigated reports of 39 elder abuse cases. Of those investigations, one arrest was made, and 11 cases were submitted to the District Attorney or City Prosecutor for filing considerations.
Any suspected case of elder abuse can be reported to 911 or by calling the Pasadena Police Department’s non-emergency number, (626) 744-4241. A patrol officer will be assigned to respond for an initial report, and follow-up work will then be assigned to a detective for further investigation.
Any reports of abuse that occur in a private residence is cross-reported by law enforcement to the Police Department’s Adult Protective Services. Abuse occurring in skilled nursing facilities is cross reported to the California Department of Health and the local long-term care ombudsman.
“The basic human rights of older adults are challenged each and every day,” Pasadena Public Health Director Dr. Ying-Ying Goh said. “Tragically, this has never been more true than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our local efforts will heighten awareness that elder abuse is a serious issue that must be addressed. We all have a vital role to play in creating a peaceful, supportive and just society.”
With regards to financial abuse, including scams that victimize elder persons, the City of Pasadena encourages seniors to register to the National Do Not Call Registry, at www.donotcall.gov, and to shred emails, letters and other documents that are no longer needed, as well as to avoid giving out any personal information to callers and persons they do not know.
Retired persons are advised to keep in touch with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to address the needs and interests of middle-aged and elderly people. AARP also has an anti-fraud page where several bits of advice for elders to avoid abuse can be found. The page is at www.aarp.org.
“Detection is best done through paying attention to your senior family and friends. Be alert to brand new friends who seem overly attentive, be aware of unusual behaviors that include expensive gifts and large withdrawals,” Wayne April said. “Be very concerned if the senior is being isolated by someone and cut off from their usual social patterns. And if the senior indicates that they are changing their wills, or trusts, or POA’s (power of attorney) all of a sudden, warning bells should ring.”
One thought on “City Marks Elder Abuse Day as Area Experts Say Problem Has Worsened”
So what is the City of Pasadena doing about Elder Abuse other than putting out some flags?