Media Contact: Gene Kennedy
Senior Public Information Specialist
Advocates Urge Families, Communities to Protect Adults from Abuse and Neglect
Riverside County social workers, medical, legal experts team up to protect at-risk adults
RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif.—Thousands of aging and disabled adults in Riverside County suffer from abuse and neglect each year, but isolation and shame stop many victims from reporting crimes that their trusted family members and friends often commit.
June is National Elder Abuse Awareness Month, when communities spotlight the growing problem of elder neglect and abuse, and raise awareness about the cultural, social, and economic challenges impacting the aging and disabled. Stakes are high in Riverside, the tenth most populous county in the nation with 2.5 million people—and one of the most rapidly aging.
Today, one in every five county residents is already age 60 or older. In coming decades, the over-60 population is expected to double. Social workers, mental health experts, doctors, and legal experts have forged multidisciplinary teams that safeguard at-risk adults and bring justice to those who’ve been harmed.
“That holistic approach makes a difference in the lives of our elders,” says Todd Bellanca, Assistant Director for Riverside County Adult Services. Bellanca and others caution that the reports being made are probably only a fraction of abuse and neglect cases involving at-risk adults.
Riverside County Adult Protective Services confirmed approximately 6,000 allegations of abuse or neglect involving older and disabled adults last year. Financial crimes are among the most common types of crime affecting seniors, says Deputy District Attorney Maureen DuMouchel. The District Attorney is a core member of the multidisciplinary team safeguarding Riverside County seniors.
“Seniors rely on family members or close personal friends to help manage their money and, unfortunately, people will take advantage of that,” says DuMouchel, describing how caregivers isolate at-risk adults and misuse positions of trust to access bank accounts and financial records. “Before a senior knows it, they’ve basically lost all their money.”
Physicians, mental health providers and social workers conduct home visits with seniors to ensure they get the appropriate support they need to stay safe and secure in their residences, says Dr. David Franklin, a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of California, Riverside and Director of the Elder Abuse Forensic Center.
“It’s important residents understand that specialized teams and centers are available to help victims with complex needs,” says Dr. Franklin.
Home visits help identify risk factors and potentially eliminate risks that could lead to hospitalizations or nursing home placement, says Dr. Wael Hamade, Geriatric Medicine Division Chair at Riverside University Health System, Medical Center and Associate Director of the Elder Abuse Forensic Center. “Home visits are vital for patients who struggle with multiple conditions and medications or may be homebound,” Dr. Hamade says.
He says each representative of the multidisciplinary team is acting in the best interest of vulnerable adults. “I believe in what we do,” says Dr. Hamade.
Learn more about the team’s approach in this video: https://bit.ly/3cDCPb8
Experts say each one of us plays a role in preventing abuse and neglect against vulnerable adults. Suspected abuse/neglect can be reported 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling the Adult Protective Services hotline at 1-800-491-7123.
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Dr. Wael Hamade, Geriatric Medicine Division Chair at Riverside University Health System, Medical Center and Associate Director of the Elder Abuse Forensic Center does a home visit with a senior. Dr. Hamade is part of a Riverside County multidisciplinary team that helps safeguard at-risk adults and brings justice to those who’ve been harmed.