Elder abuse cases are on the rise in Kern County, and it comes during a time when county officials are trying to shine a light on the issue.
The Kern County Board of Supervisors declared June 2018 "Elder Abuse Awareness Month" in the county, and World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is set for Friday, June 15. Despite the push to educate, the problem is rampant in Kern and growing rapidly.
"When it's unseen or unheard, it really kind of promotes the idea that there isn't anything anyone can do, and it makes it more of a hopeless cause," says Jeremy Oliver, program director at the Aging and Adult Services Department.
Oliver says there were 4,170 reported cases of elder abuse in 2017, compared to 3,141 in 2014. That equates to a 33% increase in elder abuse referrals to the county from 2014-2017. In addition, a study titled the "New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study" found that for every reported case of elder abuse, 24 cases go unreported.
Types of abuse range from physical, to psychological, to the recently prominent financial abuse. Things to look out for include:
- Physical signs including bruises, cuts and burns.
- A decline in general appearance (not combing hair if they usually do, etc.)
- An elder who will look to a caretaker to answer questions and who will never speak for themselves.
- Neglect and self-neglect, including lack of adequate food and water
- Unusual bank account activity
Abusers can include caregivers, and Kate Eucee, CEO at the Alzheimer's Disease Association of Kern County, says taking care of an elder's caregiver can make a huge difference.
She recommends respite care, which essentially gives caregivers a break from their duties and can make a world of difference, according to Eucee. ADAKC is hosting a free event "Caring for the Caregiver," on June 30 at Hodel's in the Liberty Hall. The event will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. More information available here.
In addition, the county will be hosting the 21st Annual Kern County Elder Abuse Prevention Conference on June 14, also at Hodel's Liberty Hall. That event will take place from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oliver also recommended making sure you have power of attorney and similar legal intricacies in line well before you become an elder to avoid issues, because the predominant number of abusers are trusted by the victim.
If you are aware of elder abuse in process, call 911. If you are suspicious and want potential abuse investigated, call the Aging and Adults Services Department at 661-868-1006.