421-LIFE Number to Call for Elder Protection

We handled nearly 500 cases in our Adult Protective Services unit in 2012.

It is a small number, when you think about the large amount of people who live in Hamilton County. One of the reasons is that the abuse and exploitation of senior citizens often goes unreported.

They are often embarrassed when they fall victim to a scam or when a family member abuses or takes advantage of them. Or, they are in the beginning stages of dementia and unable to protect themselves. Finally, they are often isolated without much outside contact, so it is easy for it to be covered up, missed or ignored.

More than half of the cases we handle actually don’t involve abuse or exploitation, but rather self neglect. It is beyond sad when someone is unable to care for themselves and unable or unwilling to reach out for help. We work hard to ensure they get the care they need and are able to live with dignity.

We will investigate any specific allegation of someone who is suffering from the infirmities of aging and falling victim to themselves or another. If you know of someone in need, call our 421-LIFE hotline. We should all look out for our elderly family members and neighbors.


We Help Seniors, Too

Many people know Hamilton County’s Department of Job and Family Services for its child welfare program. In fact, a lot of people don’t even call us by our name – they call us 241-KIDS, which is the name of our child abuse reporting hotline.

While we are very serious about our role of helping protect the youngest members of our community, we have a lesser-known role in helping our community’s older adults, too. JFS operates an Adult Protective Services unit that is charged with protecting the community’s senior citizens from exploitation, neglect, and physical and psychological abuse.

Our agency assists approximately 750 adults per year in this capacity. Elder abuse takes many forms: The senior citizen with no family who can no longer take care of themselves due to Alzheimer’s or diminished mental capacity. The loving husband who can no longer physically care for his disabled wife. The grandmother who receives an eviction notice after giving her rent money to her grandson. The grandfather who is locked away in isolation while his family cashes his retirement checks.

According to best estimates, between one and two million U.S. citizens fall prey to elder abuse each year. Solid statistics are difficult to come by because much abuse goes unreported, there is no uniform reporting method and definitions of abuse vary. Even when an older person reports abuse, it might not be believed because the person suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia.

One thing is clear: elder abuse is unacceptable. We as a community must do everything we can to protect our senior citizens. I ask that you help us in that cause. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, here are some warning signs:

• Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.

• Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.

• Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.

• Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation.

• Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect.

• Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.

• Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person are also signs.

If you know someone who is exhibiting these warning signs, please call our elder abuse hotline, 421-LIFE. We know there are more than 750 people in this community who are victims of elder abuse. Our agency is here to help. Point us in the right direction.

Elder Abuse is Unacceptable

Everyone knows our agency for its child welfare work and our 241-KIDS hotline for reporting child abuse. Not as many know we also help protect the elderly.

Elder abuse is unacceptable. It takes many forms:

In this case, caregivers, or older adults themselves, are not meeting daily living needs. It can be intentional or unintentional. Self-neglect happens when older adults don’t want to, or can’t, do things on their own because of mental confusion or a physical disability.

Psychological Abuse
This is deliberate conduct that causes mental anguish and dehumanizes or belittles the older adult. Things like name-calling, threats of physical harm, or threats of placing the person in a nursing home are examples of psychological abuse.

Physical Abuse
When an older adult is deliberately hit and suffers bodily harm, that’s physical abuse. It also includes scratching, cuts, bruises, broken bones, physical restraint, attempted murder and murder.

This means theft of money, assets or other valuables. Assets include cash, Social Security and retirement funds, real estate, jewelry, furniture or any other items of value. People who might exploit an older adult include family members, caregivers, housekeepers, sales persons, and even telephone scammers.

If you feel someone you know is in one of the above situations, please notify us via our elder abuse reporting hotline, 421-LIFE.

Proposed cuts affect the most vulnerable

At a time when we are seeing record numbers of clients, the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services also faces unprecedented budget cuts. Due to funding reductions, we have been forced to lay off more than a third of our employees and cut $15 million in contracts with social service providers.

Proposed cuts in the 2010-2011 state budget would further hinder efforts to serve Hamilton County’s most vulnerable citizens:

* A cash-strapped family applying for food stamps, cash assistance and/or Medicaid health coverage would wait 30 days for their application to be processed, instead of 10.

* A struggling single mom would wait longer for enforcement of a child support case with a non-paying parent.

* A preschooler benefiting from early-childhood development programs while her mom works would enter kindergarten behind her classmates due to the loss of those services.

* The concerned neighbor reporting elder abuse may experience a longer wait for an investigation.

* The loving grandparent or other “kinship care” provider caring for a grandchild while a parent worked on issues related to abuse or neglect would no longer get the support of a social worker or formal support group.

* A middle class family would decide against adopting because a cut in state subsidies would make it too costly to adopt.

Like many families in Hamilton County, we’re reprioritizing and making tough choices to get us through the economic situation. Unfortunately, the actions we’re taking will have a tremendous toll on many in our community.

Despite these cuts, we will continue to serve the residents of Hamilton County to the best of our ability.

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