Adult Protective Services (APS) reports are fueled by social connections. Most reports hail from professionals who see something concerning involving an older adult experiencing some type of need. However, we all interact with older adults, so we all have a moral duty to report when something doesn’t seem right.
Throughout the pandemic, Cuyahoga County’s Adult Protective Services unit has continued to investigate all allegations of abuse of adults aged 60 and over. In 2020, there were 2,340 new APS cases investigated by our staff. We know that adult abuse continues to be grossly underreported, yet we are faced with a global pandemic that calls for isolation, quarantines, stay at home orders and a lack of the very human interaction that helps keep us safely connected. Isolation and loneliness alone have significant effects on health and well-being. Not having connection to our most vulnerable citizens may exasperate the prevalence of abuse, as it often occurs out of sight.
On June 15, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is commemorated in America and around the world. Through this day, we raise awareness about the millions of older adults who experience elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. Studies indicate that as many as 1 in 10 older Americans are abused or neglected each year and only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse ever comes to the attention of authorities.
Now, more than ever, the call to action needs to be sounded, so that we remember that elder abuse continues to happen in our communities, even as we emerge from this pandemic. The biggest step toward ending abuse is to report it when you suspect it is occurring.
You may ask yourself – “What is it that I need to be aware of to report to my local APS?” These are the most commonly reported types of abuse according to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA):
- Physical abuse: includes slapping, hitting, beating, or causing someone physical pain, injury and suffering -- or confining someone against their will.
- Emotional abuse: involves creating emotional pain, distress or anguish through the use of threats, intimidation or humiliation.
- Sexual abuse: includes physical force, threats or coercion to facilitate non-consensual touching, intercourse or other sexual activities. This is particularly true with vulnerable adults who are unable to give consent or comprehend the nature of these actions.
- Neglect: involves failure to support the physical, emotional and social needs of adults dependent on others for their primary care, including withholding food, medications or access to health care.
- Self-neglect: involves seniors or adults with disabilities who fail to meet their own physical, emotional or social needs, including failure to provide for one’s own food, clothing, shelter and health care.
- Financial Exploitation: includes the misuse, mishandling or exploitation of the property, possessions or assets of adults.
Older Americans are vital, contributing members of our society and their abuse or neglect diminishes all of us. WEAAD reminds us that, as in a just society, all of us have a critical role to play in focusing attention on elder justice.
You can report suspected elder abuse to the County’s Adult Protective Services unit anonymously, anytime of day by calling 216-420-6700 or by visiting our online reporting portal at dsas.cuyahogacounty.us.
If you see it, report it. This small mantra alone may save a life.