By Cheryl Poncini
The month of June has long been recognized as Elder Abuse Awareness Month locally, nationally and internationally. This recognition is important because it helps keep the issue of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation on the community’s radar regardless if that community is a neighborhood, city, county, state, country or the world.
The sad reality is that elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation occur. The persons who commit such acts range from strangers to family members, friends, neighbors and others whom the elder thinks he or she can trust. With the growing number of seniors (under California law, age 65 and older) due to the aging of the Baby Boomers, the incidence of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation will continue to grow as well.
It is also a reality that elder abuse is one of the most under-reported crimes in the United States where it is estimated that one in fourteen cases of suspected abuse comes to the attention of law enforcement and/or Alameda County Adult Protective Services (APS). It is only by the community working with elders, APS and law enforcement to recognize the red flags of possible abuse and neglect and to report suspected abuse and neglect that interventions can be made and the elder protected from further victimization.
The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office works year round to provide information to the Oakland and Alameda County communities to increase awareness in the community of what constitutes elder and dependent adult abuse, neglect and financial exploitation, how to reduce the possibility of becoming a victim and, the resources available to assist the elder and dependent adult who is a victim of such abuse.
Those efforts include our deputy district attorneys and victim/witness advocates providing presentations and panels with information about scam awareness and the signs and symptoms of elder abuse and neglect.
The Elder Protection Unit also holds an annual training seminar for law enforcement, prosecuting attorneys and Adult Protective Services caseworkers on issues relevant to the investigation and prosecution of these cases. A deputy district attorney also chairs a county-wide committee which is examining both perceived gaps in services to seniors and dependent adults and strategies to close those gaps.
Specifically, for the month of June, the D.A.’s office has contacted, once again, the fourteen city councils in Alameda County as well as the county Board of Supervisors, asking that each recognize June as Elder Abuse Awareness Month in their respective jurisdictions. Once again, all fourteen city councils and the Board of Supervisors have issued, or will be recognizing the importance of this issue. (See the office website for the flyer setting forth the dates and locations of these events.)
Members of the Elder Protection Unit appear at the various city council and Board meetings to again remind the community in that jurisdiction of the importance of elder abuse awareness. In addition, an informational and fun way to learn about the serious topic of senior scams will be held on June 21 at the San Leandro Senior Center when a deputy district attorney will engage seniors in a “trivia” contest to test how much they know about scams and financial exploitation.
In short, knowledge is power. The more seniors and those who work with, or care about, elders know regarding the various forms of possible elder abuse, the less likely one will become a victim. It takes both recognizing that elders are valuable members of the community who have the right to live safely and securely as well as the community—the elder, families, law enforcement, DA’s office, APS and others—working together to help keep elders safer and better able to enjoy life.
If you are a member of a community, faith-based or other organization which would like to have a presentation made at your organization regarding elder abuse awareness, do not hesitate to contact the Alameda County District Attorney’s office at 510-272-6222 for further information. These presentations are free of charge.
Cheryl Poncini is the Deputy District Attorney in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, Elder Protection Unit.