County’s Adult Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices helps raise aware­ness of el­der abuse

Maryland Independent - - News - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: Tif­fIndyNews

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.”

STAFF PHOTO BY TIF­FANY WAT­SON

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.

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