Federal data shows that adult protective service agencies nationwide conducted 713,000 elder-abuse investigations in fiscal year 2017, with nearly a third of those cases identifying victims of abuse or self-neglect. In the state of Washington, reported elder abuse cases increased dramatically, from 19,000 in 2012 to 49,000 in 2017, reports Seattle Weekly in a recent article, “Seattle Takes on Elder Abuse as Reported Cases Rise.” It should be remembered that many cases of elder abuse go unreported, so these numbers are just the ones that are reported.
Mary Lynn Pannen, the founder and CEO of Washington-based geriatric care management firm Sound Options, remarks that the increased reporting is a result of better data collection. She has seen progress in the state’s response to elder abuse, since she worked as the head of a Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department counsel that focused on the issue 35 years ago.
Over the past 30 years, she and her staffers have consulted with families throughout the region on caring for older adults. Employees help caretakers create and execute care plans, work with elder law attorneys and advocate on behalf of people in care facilities. Staffers are trained to be keenly aware of elder-abuse cases, which typically show up as financial exploitation. They’ll look for signals like bruises on the senior’s body or a refusal by family members or caretakers to allow the senior to respond to the staffers’ inquiries. Once they’ve gathered enough information to suspect abuse, staffers then report it to Adult Protective Services.
“One of the things to prevent abuse, is to make sure that we can help de-stress the whole family unit, because caregiving is really hard,” Pannen said. “This is a serious issue and we need to have the public understand that.”
Abuse often goes unreported because older adults feel shame or are unaware about the neglect or abuse they’ve received from their own family members or caregivers. Local agencies have strengthened protections for seniors in recent years.
Adult Protective Services’ data seems to show that the efforts in King County is starting to pay off, with a 50% increase in the last five years of elder abuse reporting. Nearly thirty percent of these cases concerned financial exploitation.
Reference: Seattle Weekly (December 12, 2018) “Seattle Takes on Elder Abuse as Reported Cases Rise”