Make Your Mark: Check in and Protect Older Adults

VENTURA, Calif. – For the past 57 years, our nation has designated May as Older Americans Month to celebrate the countless contributions that older adults make in their communities. This year’s theme is Make Your Mark, and California is celebrating by highlighting how older adults are making their mark during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep our communities safe and healthy.

When this health emergency was declared in Ventura County on March 12, 2020, seniors were advised to stay home to avoid exposure. In response and to honor this month’s tribute to older adults, the Human Services Agency (HSA) developed a public service announcement, asking folks to “Be honorable … Protect the vulnerable.” The message is meant to encourage residents to call, text, and safely knock on doors to make sure older adults who are in isolation have the support they need and to call the Adult Protective Services (APS) hotline to report any suspected abuse or neglect.

Based on January 2020 demographic data from the California Department of Finance, between 2015 and 2019, the population of those 60 years and older in Ventura County has grown more than 13 percent, while the County’s total population in the same period remained mostly stagnant. With this aging population increase, local reports of elder abuse have increased 31 percent in the same period. The APS program investigates all reports of elder abuse by assessing each victim’s overall circumstances, ensuring that the elder has sufficient food, medications, working utilities, and other services that can improve safety, health and well-being.
“Our older and vulnerable adults are even more at risk of isolation, now more than ever,” explained Carey Aldava, APS Program Manager. “It is important to continue checking on our older neighbors and ask them how they are doing and if they have enough food and supplies. They will definitely appreciate the contact and to know they are cared for. We can all play a part to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of the older adults in our community.”

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, social isolation makes seniors more vulnerable to elder abuse. The National Council on Aging further reports that approximately 1 in 10 Americans age 60 years and older has experienced some form of elder abuse, and another study estimated that only one in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities. Last year in Ventura County, APS responded to nearly 5,000 reports of elder abuse. The program serves to protect this vulnerable population by investigating all reports of suspected abuse and may provide further interventions such as assistance arranging for supportive services. Since APS is a voluntary program, individuals may choose to accept or decline help.

In addition to assisting individual victims of abuse, APS serves the broader community by providing outreach, educational information, and workshops to help ensure the safety and well-being of elders and other adults with disabilities. APS social workers made 605 wellness calls in April, checking in and providing a point of contact for clients who may not have any other family or friends. These calls also connected those most in need with emergency food relief from local partners, such as the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging and FOOD Share.

If you suspect elder or dependent adult abuse or neglect, call the APS 24-Hour Abuse Reporting Hotline at 805-654-3200. To request information, visit vchsa.org/adult-protective-services or call APS at 805-658-4453.

Photo Caption: Ventura County Human Services Agency created a May 2020 Older Americans Month Video (Spanish video) as part of its campaign, asking folks to “Be honorable … Protect the vulnerable” by reporting suspected elder abuse, neglect, and self-neglect.

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