HCN News & Notes

Today Is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and LifePath Urges Action

GREENFIELD — June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which was designated to raise awareness of both the prevalence and signs of elder abuse and the importance of reporting this type of abuse when it is suspected.

One in 10 Americans age 60 or older have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some estimates range as high as 5 million elders who are abused each year, and one study estimated that only 1 in 24 cases of abuse are reported to authorities. In addition, annual loss by victims of financial abuse is estimated to be at least $36.5 billion. Elders who have been abused have a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who have not been mistreated.

Elder Protective Services (EPS) at LifePath investigates concerns regarding physical, emotional, and sexual abuse; financial exploitation; neglect; and self-neglect. The purpose of EPS is to alleviate or eliminate the effects of elder abuse in the least restrictive way while respecting everyone’s right to make their own decisions. LifePath’s Elder Protective Services program covers all of Franklin County, the North Quabbin area, and all of Berkshire County. In LifePath’s service area, 1,237 reports of elder abuse were received from July 1, 2020 through May 25, 2021.

COVID-19 drastically reduced the number of reports that were filed. Elders were not being seen by family, friends, doctors, visiting nurse associations, or other providers, and, therefore, concerns were being reported and addressed less. Also, some elders chose to go without needed support and services due to COVID concerns.

As people re-engage with their friends, family, and neighbors after this time of social isolation, LifePath asks that anyone with a concern about an elder reach out by calling LifePath at (413) 773-5555 or (978) 544-2259, or the state’s 24/7 Elder Abuse Hotline at (800) 922-2275.

EPS cannot intervene without the consent of the elder, and it is not about assigning blame. Also, elders who are competent get to decide their level of involvement, from none to limited to full engagement. While EPS is required to complete the assessment even when an elder does not participate, any proposed intervention or services can only be done with the explicit agreement of an elder. If an elder does not want an intervention, EPS cannot force services, despite the risk, as long as an elder is competent.