(June 14, 2019) The work being done to protect Worcester County’s vulnerable adults was recognized by the Worcester County Commissioners meeting last Tuesday.
“It’s important to educate the community on elder abuse because it is so underreported,” Roberta Baldwin, director of Worcester County’s Department of Social Services, said.
In issuing a proclamation recognizing the efforts to address the problem, Commissioners’ President Diana Purnell said, “This … touches all of us, whether it has happened to someone in your family, or someone like me [who] has hit that elderly category, and it could affect me.”
The proclamation declared June 2019 as Elder Abuse Awareness Month and June 15 as Elder Abuse Awareness Day in Worcester County.
“It feels very good to know that our county commissioners and our decision-makers in our community support the work that’s being done to keep seniors safe and able to remain living in their own homes,” Baldwin said.
However, Baldwin added that it does take a village to protect and provide services for the many vulnerable adults in the county.
She added her department also works with the county’s health department and commission on aging for this venture.
“It allows seniors and our vulnerable adults to make one phone call to ask for assistance,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin added the agencies offer services for adults that include personal care, housekeeping, meal preparation, medication monitoring, and helping to ensure patients make their doctors’ appointments.
Jamie Manning, assistant director of services for the Department of Social Services, expressed her gratitude for the teamwork as she accepted the proclamation last week.
“We’re very fortunate in Worcester County to have Maryland access point,” Manning said last week. “You know it’s a multi-agency program, a one-stop shop for adults, and without that partnership with the three agencies, we couldn’t do this alone so we really thank you for all your support.”
Baldwin said vulnerable adults can become victims of physical or sexual abuse, neglect or financial exploitation.
The National Commission on Aging has found that about one in 10 Americans over the age of 60 years old have “experienced some form of elder abuse,” Baldwin said, adding that about 150 cases of elder abuse are reported annually.
“And that for me is a very low number and that’s because I think it does go under reported,” Baldwin said.
She said the victims could be afraid that speaking out could result in them having to leave their homes, or they could lose the assistance they’re receiving if the person responsible for the abuse is administering care.
“A lot of people sweep elder abuse under the rug and one in six people will be touched by that at some point — an adult will experience elder abuse, neglect or financial exploitation,” Manning said last.
Manning and Baldwin agreed education is paramount in preventing the problem.
“The more that we can make the [public] aware that these types of crimes exist, the more likely we are to protect our seniors from becoming victims of such crimes,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin added it’s important to look for the signs and symptoms of elder abuse.
For instance, with physical abuse, Baldwin said it’s important to take note of unexplained bruises or bed sores for those bed-bound seniors.
If it’s a financial situation, Baldwin said persons being added to bank accounts is a red flag, as is unusual financial activity or unpaid bills. Baldwin also said the perpetrator is often someone the victim knows.
“So our job, really, is to work with the senior and the non-offending members of the family to put services in place to help that senior reside in their homes but to be safe and well cared for,” Baldwin said.
However, it may seem simple, but Manning said taking action is key.
“If you see something, say something,” Manning said.