It was only supposed to be temporary. Just a few months until they got back on their feet – and in the meantime, an extra pair of hands around the house would be a blessing. At least that was what Mildred initially thought when her son, his wife and their daughter came to live with her. But six months later, Mildred found herself a prisoner in her own home. Her son and his family had taken over and abused her financially, emotionally and ultimately physically. Until a concerned neighbor found Mildred with a broken arm, her plight did not catch the attention of police or other authorities.
This is an all too familiar scenario for hundreds of Orange County’s older adults and one that does not always bring a happy ending. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15 will focus on the rising epidemic of elder abuse. In 2012 alone, California Department of Social Services received 25,336 reports of elder abuse and neglect. Thirty-one percent of these reports occurred in Orange County. Last year, Adult Protective Services received more than 650 calls each month for suspected elder abuse and neglect.
Two organizations working closely with police to provide safety and healing to elder abuse victims are Orange County Adult Protective Services and Human Options, a nonprofit working to break the cycle of domestic violence in Orange County.
Founded on the belief that no woman or child should be afraid in their own home, Human Options established Safe Options for Seniors in 2000 to provide direct and specialized services to victims over the age of 50, like Mildred, who experience late life family violence and abuse.
“We fill a critical gap in assisting victims of late life family violence by meeting them in safe community locations or in their own homes,” says Mieka Bledsoe, Program Coordinator for Safe Options for Seniors.
After Mildred was introduced to Human Options, she was provided with counseling and referrals to legal advocacy which helped her apply for a restraining order, obtain a court advocate and become educated on her legal rights. While Mildred’s story is tragic, it has a triumphant ending as she is now healthy and living safely in her home.
Warning Signs for Elder Abuse
- Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect or mistreatment.
- Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness or unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
- Unexplained or sudden changes in finances are indicators of financial exploitation.
- Changes in personality, behavior or physical condition.
- Signs of isolation, being controlled and/or threatened.
Mieka advises that if one or more of these circumstances arise with a family member, neighbor, or friend who is a senior, you should start to question what is going on.
Late life family violence happens all too frequently and often goes unreported. If abuse is suspected, call the Adult Protective Services hotline at 800-451-5155 or Human Options’ hotline at 877-854-3594. Both resources are free and confidential.
Blog written by Mieka Bledsoe, MFTI, Program Coordinator for Safe Options for Seniors with Human Options