Ongoing Education Efforts Help Promote Awareness of Elder Abuse

The number of older Americans is fast growing, but so is the problem of elder abuse and mistreatment. Often called an “invisible crime,” elder abuse is an issue facing millions of American families, and responding to this “invisible” problem is an ongoing challenge for every county and municipality in our region.

The Centralina Regional Ombudsman Program leads ongoing education efforts to promote awareness of elder abuse and participates in annual events, such as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, celebrated each year on June 15.

Studies indicate that 10% of all Americans aged 60 and older— about 5.7 million individuals—have suffered from some form of abuse within the last year. Combined, the many forms of elder mistreatment are estimated to cost Americans billions of dollars annually in healthcare, social services, investigative and legal costs, and lost income and assets.

Although elder mistreatment may be well-hidden, the effects of this crime are devastating and far-reaching to both the mistreated individuals and their communities. Public education campaigns are vital for informing people about the issue of elder abuse. 

“Every individual, every agency, and every government entity has a role to play in abuse awareness and prevention. Even something as simple as a post on your social media page, a letter to the editor, or a flier in your agency’s breakroom can help combat this issue in our region,” says Laurie Abounader, a Regional Ombudsman with Centralina COG.

Along with efforts that will take place on World Elder Awareness Day to raise awareness about this “invisible” problem, Centralina’s Regional Ombudsman Program provides training to forensic nursing candidates for Carolinas Healthcare System to promote a better understanding of elder abuse.  The Ombudsman Program has also provided leadership for the implementation and ongoing efforts of the Cabarrus County Task Force for Prevention of Abuse of Elderly and Disabled Adults, a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency initiative to combat elder abuse. This past year the Ombudsman Program’s prevention efforts culminated in December when the Centralina Area Agency on Aging hosted “A Purple Ribbon Affair” with Bob Blancato, National Coordinator of the Elder Abuse Coalition.

From a federal perspective, the response has been the creation of the bi-partisan Elder Justice Coalition, which was created in 2003 to promote passage of the Elder Justice Act. The Act (EJA) was first introduced before Congress in 2002, and each year following, until it was finally enacted into law in 2010.  Provisions of this multi-faceted Act promote awareness, fund research, establish forensic centers, support victims, improve training, and strengthen prosecution of perpetrators. 

 “While we applaud these federal efforts, national efforts to recognize and prevent elder abuse lag behind child abuse efforts by forty years, and behind domestic violence efforts by twenty years;” reports Abounader. According to a 2011 Government Accountability Office report, statistics indicate that the average expenditure per child resident for Child Protective Services was $45.03, while the average expense for Adult Protective Services was $3.90. “We still have much work to do,” says Abounader.   

Visit Elder Abuse to access free, pre-formatted articles and materials. Please contact Laurie Abounader at 704-348-739 or  if you would like more information about elder abuse prevention.

Related Counties: AllCounties     
Related COG Areas: Aging and Quality of Life