NEWBURGH – Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus, District Attorney David Hoovler and Sheriff Carl E. DuBois were featured speakers at EverCare at Home’s 10th annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) conference on Friday, June 15th at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh.
Orange County Legislator Jim O’Donnell, Darcie Miller, the County’s Commissioner of Social Services and Mental Health, and Office for the Aging Director AnnMarie Maglione also attend the event. Maglione delivered the closing remarks at the event. The theme of this year’s conference was “kNOw more; AGE LOUDLY Against Elder Abuse.”
“This forum was an important vehicle to raise awareness about elder abuse,” Neuhaus said. “Elder abuse can take many forms, including physical abuse and financial exploitation. What is concerning is that many seniors often do not report abuse because they are embarrassed or fear retaliation. Orange County has a variety of programs for elder abuse victims and we encourage them to come forward and seek help.”
Each year, approximately five million older Americans are victims of some type of elder abuse. Experts believe that for every case of elder abuse or neglect reported approximately 23.5 cases go unreported. According to the National Clearing House on Abuse Later in Life, each year an estimated 2.1 million older Americans are victims of physical, psychological, and other forms of abuse.
Elders in this country lose an estimated $2.6 billion annually due to financial abuse and exploitation, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, wiping out funds that could have been used to pay for basic needs such as housing, food, and medical care. Orange County’s Adult Protective Services unit received 732 referrals in 2017, including 538 that were assigned for assessment.
“The only way to effectively reduce elder abuse is to raise awareness about it,” Hoovler said. “This is especially important because many seniors subjected to abuse are unable or unwilling to report these crimes. Senior victims deserve the support of the entire community. My office will continue to proactively prosecute those who physically and financially abuse senior citizens.”
Perpetrators of abuse later in life can be spouses, partners, adult children, grandchildren, other family members or caregivers. Victims face very unique challenges to reporting this abuse. There is often a feeling of shame, fear of being alone, fear of being institutionalized, or fear of not being believed. Victims may often be reliant on their perpetrator for basic needs such as feeding, clothing, transportation, and communication.
WEAAD was launched in 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. The purpose of WEAAD is to help communities to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic affects elder abuse and neglect has.
The WEAAD conference is being held in collaboration with Orange County Government, the County’s Office for the Aging, the Center on Aging and Policy at Mount Saint Mary College, St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital and EverCare at Home.
“We all need to respond to and try to prevent elder abuse,” DuBois said. “This event encourages us to continue our work together to raise awareness and educate our community about signs and symptoms of elder abuse. Elder abuse comes in many forms, but seniors and their families should know that we are here to help and they are never alone.”
To report adult abuse in Orange County, call the Department of Social Services at 291-2800 or the New York State hotline at 844-697-3505. Safe Homes of Orange County also serves as an important community resource, providing comprehensive non-residential and residential services to victims of domestic violence in Orange County. If you or someone you know needs help, please contact the free 24-hour hotline at 1-888-503-HOPE (4673).