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Residents Can Join Cuyahoga County in Helping to Prevent Elder Abuse

by Kathie Sizemore , Program Officer 3, Communications, Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Humans Services
Local effort to raise awareness about elder abuse and neglect in our communities

A close-up of the World elder Abuse Awareness Day banner that reads “World Elder Abuse Awareness DayThis month, Cuyahoga County is partnering with communities across the globe to raise awareness about elder abuse. June 15 will mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), a day that serves as a call to action for individuals to learn about abuse against older adults and how to prevent and report it.

Each year, an estimated 5 million older adults are abused, neglected, or exploited. Experts believe that elder abuse is significantly under-reported, in part because many do not recognize the signs of abuse, or they do not know how or when to report it. Research suggests that as few as 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse come to the attention of authorities.

In Cuyahoga County, reports of abuse are on the rise. The County’s Adult Protective Services (APS) unit noted a 20 percent rise in clients in 2018. “Over 2,300 older adults received assistance from the unit over the past year,” said Natasha Pietrocola, Deputy Director for APS. “A majority of the reports coming in are for self-neglect—a form of abuse under Ohio law—followed by neglect, financial exploitation and physical abuse.”

A group of Cuyahoga County Division of Senior and Adult Services professionals standing in front of a banner that reads Abuse hurts at any age. See it. Stop it. Prevent itElder abuse is an issue with many consequences for our society. Its effects on our communities range from public health to economic issues. There are many ways to strengthen our social supports through policies, services, and programs that keep us integrated in our communities as we age.

• We can design and equip community centers to work as intergenerational spaces that allow older people to build relationships and participate in the work, play, and life of our neighborhoods.

• We can think about the role of transportation in reducing social isolation and adjust systems so that we can all continue to move throughout our communities as we age.

• We can figure out new and better ways to arrange and coordinate the teams, agencies, and programs that work specifically with older people.

• We can develop programs to educate families and professionals who work with older adults to understand the importance of preventing isolation, how to spot the warning signs of abuse, and what to do to address abuse or neglect.

“We can prevent elder abuse from happening by putting support services in place,” said Tracey N. Mason, Administrator for the County’s Division of Senior and Adult Services. “If we direct community resources toward addressing elder abuse, we can create a sturdy structure of support that will benefit us all as we get older.”

The County works continuously to address these issues in a comprehensive manner to foster a nurturing environment for our older adults. We convene the Cuyahoga County Senior Services Network (CCSSN), which brings together more than 40 neighborhood center directors to share best practices, challenges and ideas for quality social interaction in our local centers. In 2018, through our Community Social Services Program we provided over 144,000 one-way trips and over 270,000 hours of programming in our senior centers, ranging from performances, art classes and lectures to trips, sporting events and social gatherings. Ninety-two percent of residents surveyed indicated their local senior center provides interesting programming that sustains their mental and physical well-being.

To keep our older residents safe, we convene the Adult Protective Services Collaborative, which is comprised of over 40 local organizations involved in serving and protecting seniors. The Collaborative meets monthly to discuss trends, issues and challenging cases to determine best outcomes, and work as a group to address and alleviate elder abuse. Additionally, our Adult Protective Services unit conducts ongoing mandated reporter training at no cost for professionals and others interested in understanding the types and signs of elder abuse and how to report it.

The Cuyahoga County Division of Senior and Adult Services (DSAS) will be creating awareness this month through a series of events, including social media interviews, a free mandated reporter training event and the seventh annual Elder Abuse Awareness Forum. In addition, the awareness color—purple—will be displayed via dress days, awareness ribbons and the lighting of the Terminal Tower on June 15.

Visit DSAS’ website at dsas.cuyahogacounty.us to learn more about World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and for a complete calendar of events.

For more information on mandated reporting visit: https://dsas.cuyahogacounty.us/en-US/Mandated-Reporters.aspx.

Cuyahoga County World Elder Abuse Awareness Month (WEAAD) Events


Lifting Up Voices: a Facebook Awareness Series
Like the County’s Facebook page and tune in throughout the month of June to catch a series of video interviews with members of the County’s Adult Protective Services Collaborative.
Lifting Up Voices episode 1: https://youtu.be/K0DcmRL2b0k 

June 7
Wear Purple Day Kick-Off
Help create awareness by wearing purple and being social -- #WEAAD

June 10
7th Annual Cuyahoga County Elder Abuse Awareness Forum
The Changing Face of Trauma: Healing Approaches for Victims and Professionals
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Jamie Marich
Conference Center at the Benjamin Rose Institute
11890 Fairhill Road
Cleveland, Ohio 44120

June 14
C3A Consortium Annual Conference
Exploring Elder Abuse Through a Trauma Informed Lens
Keynote Speaker: Kim Kehl, M.Ed.
Tri-C Corporate College East
4400 Richmond Road
Warrensville Heights, OH 44128

June 15
Light the Terminal Tower for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
Keep an eye to the sky to see our local landmark decked in purple

June 24
Free Mandated Reporter Training
Cuyahoga County Public Library – Independence Branch
6361 Selig Drive
Independence, OH 44131
Pre-registration required via Eventbrite