County’s Adult Protective Services helps raise awareness of elder abuse
According to the World Health Organization, approximately one in 10 Americans age 60 and older are susceptible to being victims of elder abuse. It has been estimated that nearly 5 million adults are abused each year — but only one in 14 cases are reported to local authorities.
On June 3, during Elder Abuse Awareness Month, the Charles County Department of Social Services Adult Protective Services staff hosted a World Elder Abuse Awareness Day event. Special guest speaker Rosa Uddeme, a trainer with the Maryland Department of Human Resources Training Unit, discussed ways to help spread the word about elderly abuse and the importance of reporting it to Adult Protective Services, a federally funded program that protects vulnerable adults from abuse.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was originally launched on June 15, 2006, by the International Network as well as the World Health Organization at the United Nations. The purpose of the World Elderly Abuse Awareness Day is to promote a better understanding of the abuse and neglect of older persons through raising awareness about elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.
“Our elderly need to be more suspicious,” Uddeme said. “I want them to question the trusting soul that they grew up with because there are scam artists who will show up to their relative’s funeral, hug you and extend their condolences, just to get close to you and steal your identity, credit card information and health insurance.”
Uddeme discussed scams such as internet fraud (phishing), health care/insurance fraud, counterfeit prescription drug scams, funeral and cemetery fraud, anti-aging product scams, telemarketing scams, investment schemes, mortgage scams and grandparent scams.
“Elderly people are very vulnerable and will give out their personal information, thinking that it’s for something else,” said Delia Meadows, DSS Adult Service administrator. “One of the main concerns is that elderly abuse occurs regardless of economical status. We can find it in families that are wealthy, poor, and educated or uneducated.”
Uddeme’s best advice to the elderly and local partners is to say “no” to imposters, do online searches before agreeing to anything, don’t believe your caller ID, don’t pay upfront for a promise, talk to someone before giving out personal information, hang up on robocalls, be skeptical about free trial offers, consider your payment methods and sign up for free scam alerts from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
“In recent years, the issue of elderly abuse has gone beyond just occurring at nursing homes because there are so many scams going on and exploitation and we need people to help us raise awareness,” said Allison Carroll, DSS Adult Protection Services family support worker.
A vulnerable adult is an individual who is 18 years or older, has cognitive disabilities such as an intellectual disability, late stages of dementia or Parkinson’s, or is bed bound or physically disabled. Anyone who depends on others for their care can also be defined as a vulnerable adult.
Meadows said their department has an average of 24 open cases per month since scams have recently increased — especially with people using unrecognizable phone numbers to obtain information concerning an elderly individual’s bank account and credit card information.
The types of abuse to vulnerable adults recognized in the State of Maryland are physical abuse (sustaining of any physical injury of a vulnerable adult as a result of cruel or inhumane treatment, or as a result of a malicious act by a person); neglect (the willful deprivation of adequate food, clothing, essential treatment or “habilitative” therapy, shelter and/or supervision of a vulnerable adult); and exploitation, which is any action that involves the misuse of a vulnerable adult’s funds, property or person.
“In regards to preventative measures, we want to build on resources from the community,” said DSS Adult Protection Services Case Manager Ayanna Brown. “We want local families and organizations to know what to look for, such as an elderly person having a mark on their arm, and we want to let the elderly’s families know who to contact when it comes to making a report. Some adults are embarrassed when they are being abused, even if it’s coming from a family member.”
According to National Council on Aging, more than 90 percent of all reported elderly abuse is committed by an older person’s own family members, most often their adult children, followed by grandchildren, nieces and nephews and others.
“I wish I was teaching to trust, love and kumbaya with everybody, but it’s not [the] reality,” Uddeme said. “It’s so sad that [elderly adults] are so vulnerable to outside criminals and they’re not even leaving their homes. We have to protect our older individuals and get involved, especially in a world where we say, ‘It’s not our business.’ But it should be our business.”
Rosa Uddeme, trainer from Maryland Department of Human Resources Training Unit, spoke to local residents and senior citizens about internet phishing scams and funeral scams used on the elderly because they are vulnerable to the deception.