OC Recognizes World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

GOSHEN – Orange County paid tribute to World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), which raises understanding about elder abuse and neglect, by hosting an informational news conference on Thursday, June 15th at the Government Center.

Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler, Sheriff Paul Arteta, County Clerk Kelly Eskew, Office for the Aging Director AnnMarie Maglione, Commissioner of Mental Health/Social Services Darcie Miller, Mary Pat Smith, Assistant to Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus, Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation Administrator Laurence LaDue and Director of Probation Tim Davidian attended the event.

“Elder abuse can take many forms, including physical abuse and financial exploitation,” Hoovler said. “What is concerning is that many seniors often do not report abuse because they fear retaliation. Elder Abuse Awareness Day serves as an important vehicle to raise awareness in the community about this crime. Orange County has a variety of programs for elder abuse victims and we encourage them to come forward and seek help.”

Each year, an estimated five million older Americans are victims of some type of elder abuse. Experts believe that for every case of elder abuse or neglect reported as many as 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 758 referrals in 2022 and 283 through April of this year. Referrals include allegations of abuse and/or neglect.

“Far too many of our senior citizens are subjected to physical, psychological, and other forms of abuse,” Arteta said. “The only way to effectively reduce elder abuse is to raise awareness about it. This is especially important because many seniors subjected to abuse are unable 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 provide an opportunity for communities to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic, and demographic affect elder abuse and neglect has.

“Elder abuse can take place in both institutional and community settings,” Miller said. “We all need to respond to and try to prevent elder abuse. Approximately one in 10 seniors is subjected to abuse, neglect and/or financial exploitation. We must continue to work together to raise awareness and educate our community about signs and symptoms of elder abuse.”

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.

“I am grateful to have a designated day on which to bring awareness to this terrible crime,” Maglione said. “Elder abuse comes in many forms, but everyone deserves to be safe. We are here to help and you are never alone.”

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