Catawba County News

How to Recognize and Report Elder Abuse

How to Recognize and Report Elder Abuse

Published: June 14, 2021

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day takes place June 15, 2021. The purpose of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is to raise awareness and promote a better understanding of the abuse, neglect and exploitation of older adults in communities worldwide.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), elder abuse is an intentional or negligent act by a caretaker or another person that causes harm or creates a risk of harm to an older adult. Types of elder abuse include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, neglect, and abandonment. Self-neglect, when a person’s health or safety is at risk because the person is unable to provide essential care for himself or herself, is also a form of elder abuse.

As adults get older, they can become especially vulnerable if they must depend on others to meet their most basic needs. The CDC indicates that elder abuse affects about 1 in 10 people age 60 and older who live at home.

Catawba County Social Services’ Adult Protective Services (APS) division receives and investigates reports of suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation of disabled adults age 18 and older. Every year, APS receives hundreds of reports of abuse, neglect or exploitation of disabled adults, including many older adults, in Catawba County.

“Our goal is to help protect the county’s most vulnerable adults by connecting them with the services and resources they need to stay as safe and healthy as possible,” said Chandra Henson, Social Worker Supervisor III for Catawba County Social Services’ APS division. “This could mean providing assistance with basic services, such as transportation to medical appointments or grocery shopping, that can enable them to remain on their own. In more complex situations, we may become involved in referring someone to an assisted living program or filing for guardianship. We approach each situation individually, and we strive to ensure everyone we serve is treated with dignity, care and respect.”

Two Social Services programs available to assist vulnerable adults include Community Alternatives Program for Disabled Adults, which provides home and community-based services, and Special Assistance In-Home Program for Adults, which provides additional support services and financial assistance for low-income individuals who are at risk of entering a residential facility. Through these programs, case managers help develop plans that enable individuals to meet basic needs and remain living safely at home.

Social Services encourages people to become familiar with the signs of elder abuse and to report suspected abuse as quickly as possible. Signs may include physical injuries, poor living conditions or nutrition, unusual financial activity, unpaid bills, fraudulent signatures on financial documents, or emotional changes such as depression, isolation or anxiety.

If you suspect that a disabled or elder adult may be experiencing abuse, neglect or exploitation, please call Catawba County Social Services’ APS division at (828) 695-5609 Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm. If reporting after hours or during holidays, call 911. The identity of the person making the report is kept confidential unless a court of law orders disclosure.

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