With May being “Older Americans Month,” Elkins Rotarians (West Virginia, US – D 7530) learned about the importance of elder abuse prevention during their Monday meeting.
Mandy Weirich, programme manager for Healthy Home, and Kathy Stalnaker, community service manager for the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), shared information about what is a growing problem within the state.
“We are all getting older, so we need to protect our elderly and we need to protect ourselves,” Stalnaker said.
Stalnaker added the DHHR offers six services that fall under the umbrella of adult services — adult protective services, which investigates allegations of abuse and neglect of elders or any incapacitated adult over 18; preventive adult protective service, which is to try to prevent elders from being abused or neglected; homeless services; adult residential services; unclaimed deceased bodies; and health care surrogate and guardian decisions.
Weirich explained there are only 112 adult protective services field positions in the state, and many are not consistently filled.
“About 50 people in our state are making medical decisions for almost 2,000 of our citizens, so you can imagine the case loads.”
“Some of them have over 100 people they are making daily health care decisions for, which could include whether they get dialysis, life support and those kind of things,” she said.
“Really understanding the limited work force that deals with this really huge issue is important.”
Stalnaker added the DHHR in Elkins only currently has one investigative position, yet that position covers Randolph, Tucker, Upshur, Lewis and Braxton counties.
Up until approximately four months ago, the position also took cases in Harrison County.
“We’re constantly fighting back logs and trying to get out to these elderly people who are shut-ins in the community,” Stalnaker said.
“We have approximately 15,602 referrals of adult abuse and neglect and financial exploitation over the past year.”
“These referrals increase by approximately 1,000 each year, and our number of workers (is) not increasing because of the lack of funds for adult protective services.”
Weirich expressed to Rotary Club members that nobody is safe from the possibility of elder abuse.
“It is important to understand staffing and work force issues because of how it affects older adults. This does trickle down to your families. I’ve investigated cases where we’ve had millionaires be the victim of abuse and neglect. It also affects the lowest income bracket,” she said.
“There is no one that is safe from abuse, neglect or financial exploitation. You are not even safe from that. Not even the best planning in the world will necessarily protect you from that, so this is something that affects all of us.”
Weirich added current trends show that only one in 23 cases of elder abuse is even reported and one in 10 seniors is abused each year.
“This is a community issue and we all have to be willing to step in and build up our support systems,” she said.
June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and a related proclamation is planned at 8.30 am on June 11 at Elkins City Hall.
Source: The Inter-Mountain