Preventing Elder Abuse
Elder abuse comes in many forms, and can occur in many settings. Senior centers help in a number of ways to increase awareness and decrease the risk of elder abuse among center participants.
Senior Centers Can Help Prevent Elder Abuse
Participation in senior centers may help prevent elder abuse in several ways:
- Senior centers provide opportunities for recreational and social activities; involvement in these activities decreases isolation, which is a risk factor for elder abuse.
- Self-neglect, a form of elder abuse, may be prevented through nutrition, exercise and health education programs offered at senior centers.
- Senior centers educate seniors about warning signs, prevention techniques and help available for elder abuse; this education may help seniors to avoid abuse or to get assistance if abuse is occurring.
- Volunteer opportunities in centers provide meaningful roles and a sense of purpose, which may in turn decrease the risk of depression and self-neglect.
If you or someone you know is being abused, call the local Department of Social Services. The Department of Social Services is responsible for providing Adult Protective Services that safeguard the well-being of vulnerable adults who are at risk of abuse.
Awareness Programs in Centers
Most senior centers in Maryland host elder abuse awareness programs led by professionals. These programs generally include information on:
- Types of abuse
- Warning signs
- Prevention techniques
- How to find help
- How to report suspected abuse
- Support groups for seniors who have been abused
Support for Caregivers
Taking care of an older relative can be stressful. Sometimes the stress builds to the point where abuse can occur. When older adults attend senior centers, family caregivers get a break. Senior center-based programs for health-impaired seniors provide caregivers with much-needed respite, thus reducing the risk of elder abuse by family members.
Caregiver Workshop Seminars
These programs provide information on topics including:
- Legal and financial issues
- Community resources
- Health and safety for seniors
- Caring for a loved one with dementia
- Stress management
More information is available about programs for family caregivers.
Project SAFE (Stop Adult Financial Exploitation)
Each year, hundreds of cases of financial exploitation of older and vulnerable adults are reported in Maryland. The results can be devastating - emotionally and financially. Project SAFE (Stop Adult Financial Exploitation) trains the financial and law enforcement communities on how to detect and report financial exploitation and educates older Marylanders about how to avoid financial exploitation. The program provides a procedure for banks to report financial exploitation of elderly or vulnerable adults to the Department of Human Resources. Seniors are often educated about SAFE through awareness programs at the center.
Curb Abuse in Medicare and Medicaid (CAMM)
CAMM (Curb Abuse in Medicare and Medicaid) is a project funded by a grant from the Administration on Aging of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the Maryland Department of Aging. The mission of CAMM, which is operated by the Baltimore County Department of Aging (BCDA), is to reduce the amount of health care fraud by increasing senior awareness of fraud and abuse. BCDA conducts seminars at Senior Centers on how to avoid fraud or abuse by health care providers and what to do if fraud or abuse is suspected.
If someone reports a suspicion of elder abuse to a senior center staff member, the staff may help in one of three ways:
- They may assist the individual to make a report to the Department of Social Services.
- They may place the call to the Department of Social Services.
- They may contact other staff, often a social worker, to meet with the individual and ensure that he or she gets help.