June 22, 2012
People throughout the community need to help identify and prevent elder abuse because signs of abuse can be detected by a variety of people who have contact with seniors.
Experts in elder abuse shared that suggestion at a symposium organized by the Shalom Center for Elder Abuse Prevention, which is located at Cedar Village Retirement Community in Mason.
Elder abuse comes in many forms, the experts said, so bankers, pharmacists, hair stylists and many other people are in a position to detect it:
"We have to engage everyone in this," said Bonnie Kantor-Burman, director of the Ohio Department of Aging, the keynote speaker.
"Please keep your eyes open, your ears open and your antennas up," urged Carol Silver Elliott, CEO and president of Cedar Village.
Since being launched in January, the Shalom Center has admitted two abused seniors. And the Shalom Center has been spreading awareness about elder abuse, including the June 14 symposium for about 80 Greater Cincinnati professionals, including law enforcement officials, social workers and health care professionals.
The next day, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, seven Cedar Village residents volunteered to distribute informational materials about elder abuse prevention. They traveled on the Cedar Village bus, delivering the materials to pharmacies, doctors’ offices, community centers and synagogues.
Kantor-Burman said the current state-affiliated systems for dealing with elder abuse aren’t working. So the Department of Aging is changing its approach. Preventing elder abuse or intervening earlier is a major department priority. "We are committing to you to say, 'no more.'"
Research indicates that more than one in 10 elders may experience some type of abuse. Only one in five cases is reported. Annual estimates range from 700,000 to 3.5 million victims in the U.S.
Elder abuse is challenging to detect because many of those abused are reluctant to admit it, especially because it often is committed by family members. There’s a perceived stigma or sense of failure attached to acknowledging that someone they raised is capable of abuse.
John Hadden, a fraud prevention expert for PNC Bank, trains bankers to notice when patterns change, such as when a relative or caregiver starts accompanying a senior to the bank to withdraw cash.
And he emphasized that abusers don’t fit any stereotype. "A well-dressed family member is just as suspicious to me as anyone else."
Warren County Sheriff Larry L. Sims added, "We never really know what goes on in families."
Other speakers were Dick Yost, president of Yost Pharmacy; Mary Day, managing ombudsman at Pro Seniors Inc.; and Kevin Drummond, a social worker at The Christ Hospital.
The Shalom Center is Ohio’s first elder abuse prevention shelter and one of the first in the nation. Until now, police, social service agencies, hospitals and other organizations in Southwest Ohio have not had appropriate places to refer victims of elder abuse.
"No matter how full our nursing facility is we can always provide shelter for someone who needs a safe haven," Elliott said. Cedar Village will do so even if it’s unlikely to receive reimbursement. Providing that safe haven is part of Cedar Village’s social and community responsibility as a faith-based organization, Elliott said.
The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati helps to support the Shalom Center. The Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York City, the first such center in the nation, provided guidance and inspiration for the creation of the Shalom Center.
The Shalom Center accepts referrals for abused seniors, aged 65 and over, from local agencies, hospitals and other organizations in Hamilton, Warren, Butler and Clermont counties. Arrangements can be made for a victim to be cared for at the Shalom Center by calling 888-295-7453 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cedar Village is supported in part by donations through the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati to the annual Community Campaign.