June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month and along with our growing network of community partners, CHANA is working to raise awareness of the warning signs of elder abuse and how together, we can curb the devastating impact it has on older adults.
National data reports that 1 in 10 people over the age of 60 will experience some form of elder abuse or neglect. And it is estimated that only 1 in 24 cases of elder abuse is ever reported to authorities. Over the past 12-16 months, reports have actually decreased, as victims are increasingly isolated with and reliant on abusers to meet their daily needs during the pandemic. With senior centers temporarily closed and in-person doctor visits on the decline, abuse has become much more hidden. One recent study in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry reported that while reports are down, the incidence of elder abuse is up, approximately 86%, with 1 in 5 older adults having experienced abuse during the pandemic.
Among the most fundamentally important tools in our fight against abuse is collaboration. Collaboration promotes problem solving, spurs innovation, allows for greater focus on the problems at hand, and promotes learning and skill sharing. When individuals from our community work together, great things happen.
There is no one organization or system that can address the complexity of abuse in later life. But through outreach and collaboration, we can be more effective at addressing this serious and growing issue. In 2017, CHANA began work to form a Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to the issue of elder abuse here in Baltimore, with funding through the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women. Elder abuse is so pervasive, and impacts so many aspects of a victim’s life, it is critical that we take a multidisciplinary approach in responding to it. CHANA has built a CCR team which includes law enforcement agencies, prosecutor’s offices, judges, doctors, nurses, mental health workers, Adult Protective Services, and other senior serving and victim serving professionals, which is able to respond to elder abuse in a seamless, systemic way. Working together, this team is behind our ever evolving, community wide approach to preventing and responding to elder abuse when it occurs. This work includes cross-disciplinary training so partners understand the others roles, are able to make referrals, and are able to identify and assess gaps and weaknesses in the community’s collective response.
Similarly, in this same spirit of partnership and collaboration, we are proud to be part of AgeWell Baltimore, a collaborative, multi-agency effort between The Associated, Jewish Community Services, CHAI and CHANA. Utilizing an integrated service model, AgeWell Baltimore seeks to offer improved access to services and resources for seniors and their families. AgeWell Baltimore launched this spring and has already become an important part of our community safety net aimed at helping seniors remain independent in their homes for as long as safely possible and delivering resources for elder abuse victims and other vulnerable adults.
As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, collaborative efforts will be more important than ever, to help identify those in need and get them the help they deserve. That’s why, over the next several years we will work to broaden and expand our prevention and outreach efforts including partnerships with senior centers, senior living facilities, and adult medical day care providers. We will deepen our connections with places of worship and educate clergy and religious leaders on the topics of elder abuse prevention and response. And we will partner with local colleges and universities to provide elder abuse education to the next generation of nurses, social workers and helping professionals.
Fighting elder abuse in all its forms truly takes a village. For more information about the warning signs of abuse and how you can help, please visit chanabaltimore.org/find-help/elder-abuse/