By Vivian Clecak, Founding CEO and Cristi Dugger, Safe Options for Seniors Supervisor
What common element do these two tragedies share? More than guns, both terrible killings started with elder abuse, domestic violence directed at an older family member.
Both began with the shooting of a parent (in Santa Monica a parent and a brother) by a troubled adult child living in their parent’s home. In the Santa Monica case there was a clear history of psychiatric issues. In Newtown there were concerns but no documented history.
What we know after twelve years of our unique Safe Options for Seniors program is that seniors living with adult dysfunctional children, especially males with a history of drug or alcohol abuse, or mental illness are often dominated, verbally and/or physically abused, isolated, and terrified. The worst escalations end in their murder.
• Over 5 million seniors will be abused each year and this number will continue to grow exponentially alongside the aging of our society. In a few short years, there will be more people over age 65 then under 18.
• Adult Protective Services in Orange County received 7,238 referrals, 600 a month, of elder abuse in 2011. It is estimated that for every case of reported abuse 23.5 go unreported. The number of calls has increased 65 per cent since 2000. Contrary to the stereotype, most abuse is by family members, not by unrelated caregivers. And too often it is the troubled adult child whom the parent loves and tries to protect.
• Elders who are abused are 3 times more likely to die prematurely, and have a longer recovery and poorer prognosis after a physical or sexual attack.
So often the abuse is undetected because of our societal tendency to disregard older adults, and the intentional isolation and manipulation by the abuser. Just like other forms of family violence (child abuse and intimate partner violence), elder abuse will not get better without intervention. It will worsen over time.
Safe Options for Seniors is a specialized program created just for these victims. We meet seniors in safe settings and provide a variety of services: counseling, referrals, support and shelter when needed.
How can we help break this cycle before it begins?
• Check in on relatives you care about
• Do not be afraid to call Adult Protective Services – 877-451-5155. Calls are confidential, and all of their services are completely voluntary. They cannot force someone to leave their home or place them in a facility.
• Call our Safe Options for Seniors program for advice and guidance on how to help prevent such problems
• Make a donation to Safe Options for Seniors to help us continue our work(click on donate now)