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Conference offers tips on spotting elder abuse

I attended the Oregon Geriatrics Society 20th annual conference on Oct. 4-6 in Sunriver Here’s how they described it: “For health care professionals who care for older adults.” It was my first time at this particular conference, and I went with a wonderful group of other professionals from the Rogue Valley.

This conference primarily focused on medical providers, and we were all so pleased to be included at this event. If you know of a medical or older-adult-focused practitioner who might be interested in this conference, I give it my highest recommendations. Check out their website: oregongeriatricssociety.org. Next year’s conference is scheduled for Oct. 2-4, 2020, and Sunriver is where it’s always held. You will love this!

In these next few columns, I will be presenting some of the information I received that is relevant to our local community of aging adults. Since there were about 20 presentations, I can’t address them all.

Let’s start with one topic that was offered twice on different but related aspects. One presented by two attorneys was called “Elder Abuse and the Department of Justice.” One of these speakers was with the attorney general’s office and the other with the criminal justice division. The second talk was “Adult Protective Services (APS) Case Studies in Long-Term Care Facilities and Community Settings,” by two professionals in this field. It’s obvious this is a very concerning topic for all aging individuals.

In these presentations, it offered some important ways to note the signs of and the importance of inquiring about potential abuse. They discovered that many people, if asked directly, will admit to a serious problem, but will not reveal this unless this is actually addressed. Something to keep in mind if you’re concerned about anyone’s safety.

Here are some other specifics I learned about elder abuse at the conference. Did you know that doctors, among a list of other professionals, have a mandatory duty to verbally report this? They also used a term, polyvictimization, which means that if someone is being abused in one way, that person usually is being abused in other ways as well. For example, most cases of verbal abuse indicate that financial abuse is also occurring. And sad to say, but the majority of abusers (90%) are family members: spouses or partners, adult children or grandchildren; or other trusted individuals. In 2018 in Oregon, of all the forms of abuse (verbal, physical, neglect, etc.), financial exploitation had the largest percentage at 36%. Frequently these cases involve adult sons living with their aging mothers. I have seen this myself too many times here and know how serious and devastating this is.

It’s also perfect timing for this column, since from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Nov. 14, there will be a free, annual elder abuse conference at the Medford Library. And since the focus is on financial aspects of abuse, it’s really important. You will learn about the risk factors and how to protect yourself from this form of abuse. It’s presented by Senior and Disability Services at Rogue Valley Council of Government (RVCOG). The keynote speaker is Billie McNeely, Adult Protective Department’s elder financial exploitation specialist. There will also be a panel of local experts, and happily for all, lunch is provided. If you would like to register, please visit rvcog.eventbrite.com.

Everyone should also know how to report any type of suspected abuse anywhere in the state. Call the Department of Human Services (DHS) Hotline at 1-855-503-SAFE (7233). You can remain anonymous and help someone who might need your intervention. In fact, there is a statute which provides immunity to any person who reports abuse in good faith. The person they are concerned about can be living in their own home, or in any community-type facility, such as assisted living, dementia care or adult foster care homes.

There is so much more to be said on this topic and the various forms of abuse that can take place in someone’s life. Plan to attend this upcoming event, or go online to get more info and protect yourself and your loved ones. Online, you can go to the National Center on Elder Abuse: ncea.acl.gov. They have educational materials and publications to help you out. It’s too sad that we need organizations like this one and the local upcoming event, but this information is key to being safer.

Ellen Waldman is a certified aging life care professional. Submit questions about aging and Ashland-area aging resources and column suggestions to her through her website, www.SeniorOptionsAshland.com.

Courtesy photo Caregivers from the Rogue Valley attend the Oregon Geriatrics Society conference Oct. 4-6 in Sunriver. First row, left to right: Lucy Jackson (Aging Life Care manager); Brooke Fredericks (owner, Right at Home caregiving agency). Second row, left to right: Marya Kain (Aging Life Care manager); Ellen Waldman; Gretchen Lizotte (Mountain Meadows resident services director).