Purple power for older people
Area commemorates World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
YOUNGSTOWN — At dusk Tuesday, the Market Street Bridge in Youngstown will be lit in purple as part of the annual observance of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
“We ask our community to wear a hint of purple on this day as this denotes the significance of Stopping World Elder Abuse,” Krishmu Shipmon, adult protective service administrator for the Mahoning County Department of Job and Family Services, said. “We want to say on this day we haven’t forgotten the elderly.”
World Elder Abuse Day was founded in 2006 by the World Health Organization, she said. The four major categories of concern are abuse, neglect, self-neglect and exploitation.
“These elders are from all walks of life, all races and all ethnic groups, and they live in our neighborhoods,” she said. “They are afraid to speak out because the abuser is often a member of their own family or a caregiver whom they are dependent on. They fear retribution, lack of care or being institutionalization.
“Here in Mahoning County, we have a large problem with exploitation — people take the elderly in, but they only want that check,” Shipmon said.
Or they want to snatch the savings of the older relative. Some of the 25 to 30 allegations of abuse reported each week in the county come from banks and other places when it appears that an older person is being made to withdraw sums of cash or pay for expensive items against their wishes.
But abuse and neglect aren’t always rooted in malicious schemes. Families will take in their older relatives with the best of intentions, but after a while, they discover that caring for an older person is an arduous task, Shipmon said.
“Our elderly get a little bit cantankerous at times and they have needs,” she said. “And you have a family and they have needs. That’s where the abuse comes in.”
It’s not intended, but the stress and demands of life mean some needed tasks are left undone.
In the case of self-neglect, seniors may be living on their own but actually aren’t taking care of themselves or getting all the necessary tasks done.
Getting help can range from placing older residents in court-ordered guardianships, placing them with other family members to thwarting abusers and restoring their victims’ physical, mental or financial health.
“Our seniors are living longer. We have people in their 100s,” Shipmon said. “Mahoning County is comprised basically of elderly people. Most of our young leave when they graduate.
“The tragedy in all this is that it is a reflection upon all of us. Our elderly have given to us for many years and now it is our turn to be there for them,” she said.
“If you suspect that someone is experiencing any form of elder abuse, report it now. Let us join together to make this world a better place and be free of elder abuse.”
Anyone who is a victim of elder abuse or who suspects that someone is should report those suspicions, which can be done anonymously. To report abuse, contact the Adult Protective Services department in that county:
• Mahoning County, 330-884-6952;
• Trumbull County, 330-392-3248;
• Columbiana County, 330-420-6600.
By state law, all allegations must be investigated. Some reports turn out to be family disputes and false allegations, but all are checked out, Shipmon said.
Trumbull County commissioners unanimously passed a resolution June 3 to encourage all county employees to wear purple on Tuesday “stating that we will not stand for elder abuse.”
The resolution states in part: “Elder Abuse Awareness Day is the main day of the year when the world voices its opposition to the abuse and suffering inflicted on the elderly population.
“Currently, the world is undergoing significant demographic changes and these changes have led to a worldwide recognition of the problems and challenges that the elderly face each day. Research indicates that elder abuse, neglect, violence and exploitation are some of the biggest issues facing senior citizens in Trumbull County as well as around the world.
“The Adult Protective Services Unit, within the Trumbull County Department of Job and Family Services, takes referrals and investigates alleged cases of abuse, neglect and exploitation for our residents 60 years and older. The Board of Trumbull County Commissioners is concerned about the increased amount of elderly abuse among the senior residents of Trumbull County and wishes to make everyone aware of this problem.”
Kimberly Barrell, Trumbull County Job and Family Services administrator, said 701 allegations were filed in the county in 2020, and of those 525 met the criteria for further investigation.
“Abuse is a problem statewide. In the five years I have been doing this, we see the number of referrals are going up each year,” Barrell said.
Part of that is because the elderly population continues to grow and part is because there is greater awareness and people more willing to act, she said.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Elder Abuse Commission will commemorate Ohio Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 28 with a webinar showcasing innovations by state and local experts to serve and protect older adults during the pandemic.
“The purpose of this day is to promote effective collaboration to prevent and protect older adults from maltreatment including abuse neglect,” according to a news release from the office of Attorney General Dave Yost.
“We will focus on changes in service delivery, the importance of professional self-care, and lessons learned that may continue post-pandemic.”
Scheduled speakers and presentations for the “Effective Strategies for Serving Older Ohioans at Risk of Adult Maltreatment, through the Pandemic and Beyond” webinar include the Grove City Police Department, the attorney general’s Health Care Fraud Unit, the Ohio Department of Insurance, the Ohio Geriatrics Society, the Ohio Job and Family Director’s Association and the Ohio Victim Witness Association
The webinar is scheduled 1 to 4:30 p.m., with sign-in by 12:30 p.m. Preregistration is required at www.ohioago.webex.com or through www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov.
“We believe the creativity and energy of Ohio Elder Abuse Awareness Day activities has positively impacted the increase awareness of elder mistreatment across Ohio. We are encouraged with Ohio’s continuous progress; however, our work unfortunately remains unfinished,” Yost’s statement read.