Elder abuse rises in county
Written by BILL RYAN, Sentinel Staff Writer
Tuesday, 17 June 2014 08:32
Elder abuse in Wood County is on the rise, with 243 cases reported in 2013.
According to Maureen Veit, of Wood County Job and Family Services, roughly 70 percent of those cases involved self neglect. She said other cases involve neglect and exploitation by caregivers.
Veit, the lead investigator for the Wood County Adult Protective Services office, said many people have challenges living alone and need support services, and the abuse is not necessarily physical abuse, although that can and does happen.
On Friday, more than 100 people gathered outside the Wood County Senior Center the first local Elder Abuse Awareness event to give a voice for seniors. Many of those attending wore purple, the designated color for elder abuse awareness.
Prior to the event, 243 purple flowers were planted at the senior center, one for each case reported last year.
David Wigent, director of Wood County Job and Family Services, said June is designated as Elder Abuse Awareness month and they wish to call attention to make area seniors more aware of the help available to them.
"We are looking to raise awareness of the problems," Wigent told those gathered.
Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson also spoke at the event and shared how his office becomes involved when the abuse crosses into the criminal aspects including physical, mental or financial abuse.
"We all stand on the shoulders of this generation. It is our responsibility, our duty, our honor to be able to help the elderly enjoy the fruits of their life," Dobson said.
Veit said many of the issues could be handled more easily if they were reported sooner.
She noted one common problem they have seen involves hoarders. Her office is often not contacted until the problem becomes too severe for the person to handle as their residence becomes unlivable.
Their services in these situations might involve extended weekly and monthly visits to assist with the issues. Other services provided including organizing and assisting with medications.
"We never know what you're going to walk into," she said.
She also noted that another major problem involves finances. Veit said sometimes it's as simple as helping them better manage their checking accounts or budgets, while at other times handling matters involving family, caregivers or other friends who are not being responsible with the person's resources.
"There is a lot of exploitation by others to the point where the elder does not have enough to live on," Veit said.
She noted that just because someone may have the power of attorney, they do not have the right to spend all the person's funds without working with the person they are charged to care for.
"There is also a lot of emotional abuse," she said. "But those are often difficult to verify."
She said the person can be verbally threatened with a variety of things including being placed into a facility where they would not otherwise need to go.
"The important thing is that these things need to be reported. If someone doesn't want to call us directly, they can notify their doctor or hospital, their pastor or a social worker," Veit said.
All of those entities are mandated by law to report neglect and abuse. While bank officials are not mandated to report the abuse to other authorities, a financial issue should be reported in those situations.
Wigent said Wood County is more fortunate than many other counties in Ohio, despite the state only providing $3,000 a year toward elder care. He said his office's cost is $900,000 per year. The balance is provided through both a local levy and federal funding. The local levy is combined with the children's services levy.
"We are in the top 10 percent in Ohio as to our efforts and support," Wigent said.
The Job and Family Services office can be reached at 419-352-7566.
Additional information is also available through the Wood County Committee on Aging at 419-353-5611.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 June 2014 14:58