- Written by Josefa Scherer, MPH, Protective Services Screening Supervisor
- Published: June 5, 2020
June 15, 2020 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. On that day, communities in the USA and all over the world will sponsor events to highlight solutions to this systemic social challenge. LifePath is proud to participate in this national conversation. 2020 is the 14th observation of Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and with it comes the very specific challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our goals of ending elder abuse and enhancing the social structures that support vibrant and vital aging for all hold truer than ever. We want to take this time to highlight the ways that the virus and its attendant challenges impact the dynamics of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
The United Nations Population Fund predicts a 20% increase in domestic violence during the lockdowns, which is an additional 15 million people worldwide.
Orders to shelter-in-place, stay home when possible, and reduce or eliminate contacts outside of your household result in an increased risk of domestic violence incidents if the elder lives with an abuser. The United Nations Population Fund predicts a 20% increase in domestic violence during the lockdowns, which is an additional 15 million people worldwide. In April, a variety of news sources reported that domestic violence calls resulting in police response had increased in Massachusetts, while calls to helplines decreased. Leela Strong, a spokesperson for the state’s domestic violence hotline “SafeLink” highlights the fact that “if you are home with your abuser, there is no time to call.”
Increased financial pressures and fear can lead to exploitation and vulnerability to COVID related scams. The US Dept. of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General has a good resource page about these scams.
Caregiver neglect occurs as needs increase and required prevention efforts limit care providers’ comfort with direct contact. Stress and reduced social contact are major contributors to an increase in depression leading to self-neglect. Accessing care for physical and mental health challenges can be cumbersome in our rural counties under the best circumstances. Other long-standing concerns made much more acute in light of COVID-19 include the lack of access to safe public transportation and the internet, as well as fluency with technology.
Under normal circumstances, elder abuse is widespread. Every year an estimated 1 in 10 older Americans experience abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Research suggests that as few as 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse come to the attention of authorities. Prevention is possible, starting with continued efforts to strengthen our social support through policies, services, and programs that keep us integrated in our communities as we age.
LifePath administers the Adult Protective Services (APS) program, which investigates and intervenes in the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of people 60 and over. The adult protective services program investigates what is happening in real time, addressing the very real individual and interpersonal impacts of violence, neglect, and exploitation. One of the most dynamic and effective elements of the APS program is that we let our clients lead, use all of the tools at our disposal, and connect participants to therapeutic, social, financial, and legal resources as indicated. LifePath Adult Protective Services understands that a successful program addresses the impacts of elder abuse on individuals and families and that healing from and preventing abuse requires structural supports and an expansive view of social-emotional, financial, and other basic needs.
LifePath’s other programs help to address transportation issues, access to social and educational opportunities, and the management of in-home health and personal care. LifePath enhances our community assets and the well-being of older adults and people with disabilities by extending support for caregivers, food security and nutrition, financial security, mental health and more.
If you are a community member interested in more information about how to keep older adults in our communities safe, please reach out to LifePath at 413-773-5555 or lifepathma.org to explore our programs. To make a report of concern to APS about elder abuse call the Elder Abuse Hotline at 800-922-2275 or file online.
To recognize Elder Abuse Awareness Day, you can do your part and check in on a family member, friend, or a neighbor and ask if they are safe. Also, wear something purple on June 15 to help raise awareness of elder abuse, and share a photo of yourself wearing purple on social media.