One, two, three, four, five.

One, two, three, four, five. 

Every five seconds, an elderly person is abused. One in ten people over the age of sixty experience this abuse.

June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month and residents of Marietta may have noticed the displays outside of the Armory on Front Street. The display has 253 pinwheels representing reports of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation in Washington County last year. The displays are just one of the avenues that the Washington County Elder Abuse Awareness Coalition uses to promote awareness and education around the issue. Elder abuse often goes unnoticed by the general public but remains a serious issue for those personally impacted.

The Washington County Elder Abuse Awareness Coalition is working to prevent just that. Their mission states that they “ensure older residents of Washington County live with dignity, integrity, independence, and without abuse, neglect, and exploitation.” While the Coalition supports ongoing advocacy, June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month. 

The types of elder abuse are widespread, but scamming is one of the most common. Scams include callers posing as the IRS asking people to retrieve money to send to them (the IRS will never call you for information). In addition to basic scams, scammers are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic and offering tests to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for personal details, including Medicare information.

 Many elderly people remain unaware of potential scams and find callers trustworthy. The older generation is the most likely to be taken advantage of with a phone scam. 

In almost 60% of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member.

Some elder abuse is not as clear cut. A substantial amount of elder abuse cases are committed by friends and family. “In almost 60% of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member,” said Deanna Green of the Washington County Department of Jobs and Family Services. She is “tasked with investigating allegations of abuse, neglect, and exploitation in Washington County.” 

Part of the concern is the targeted population – the number of Americans that are 65 years or older – will double by 2060, from 46 million today to 98 million-plus. This is a problem everywhere but very much so in the Mid-Ohio Valley. Specifically, Washington County Adult Protective Services received 248 reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation in 2019. Green notes that, comparatively, older adults who have been abused have an increased risk of premature death than those who have not been abused.  

In addition to the health implications and moral injustice, another major concern is that elder abuse cases cost older Americans $2.9 billion to $36.5 billion annually. Green said that two local cases involved more than $800,000 lost each. While many cases are lesser, some “people’s life savings of $50,000 is gone, which is just as tragic,” she said. For Green to investigate the claims, they must meet the standard for abuse and not be living at a nursing home (nursing home cases are referred to the state). 

Washington County employees created the Coalition to promote Adult Protective Services and allow a better reach and connection with their service area. Their main goal is to keep the elderly population safe and in their homes as long as they wish. They do this through educational opportunities that can prevent future abuses and encourage proper reporting of current abuses. Additionally, the Coalition provides help with medical referrals, medication, and other aging needs.

With the implications of Covid-19,  they are working more toward creative approaches to continue serving their community including education packet distribution and meals on wheels. Typically, they host an in-person event where the proceeds go to Compassionate Animal Resources for the Elderly (CARE). They were not able to do so this year, but encourage support of this program. 

Other partners in this work are the Buckeye Hills Regional Council, Southeastern Ohio Legal Services and Retired Senior Volunteer Program. In addition to those partners, home health professionals, the Sheriff’s Office, an area psychologist: Dr. Gail Rymer, and the Prosecutor’s Office, are all necessary to work toward prevention. Green commends the organizations and individuals and said that the Prosecutor, Nicole Coil, genuinely prioritizes elder abuse.

Reports of elder abuse can be made to 740-434-0531, or after-hours emergency to 740-236-7095.

As Green said, “it really takes a village of people” to solve the problem.