Senior Power: World Elder Abuse Awareness Day…

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 03:53:00 PM

will be observed on Wednesday, June 15, 2011. This week’s column is the first of two on the subject of elder abuse, or, as it’s referenced in libraries, Older people Abuse of. Older than what, I wonder. 

What constitutes elder abuse, legally? Definitions vary but do not differ substantially. It can be defined as the physical or psychological mistreatment of a senior. Elder abuse crimes typically occur within 4 categories: 

Physical abuse, including assaults, batteries, sexual assaults, false imprisonment and endangerment. For example, inadequately explained fractures, bruises, welts, cuts, sores, burns; pressure or “bed sores” (decubitis ulcers); medications used to restrain victims. 

Physical neglect by a caregiver, including withholding medical services or hygiene that exposes the elderly person to risk of serious harm. For example, lack of basic body or personal hygiene; lack of adequate food or water; lack of medical aids (glasses, walker, wheel chair, hearing aid, dentures, medications;) lack of clean appropriate clothing or linens; demented victim left alone and unsupervised; bed-bound victim left without proper care; home cluttered, filthy, in a state of disrepair or having health, fire and safety hazards; home lacking minimum equipment and facilities (stove, refrigerator, heat, cooling, working plumbing and electricity). 

Psychological (mental) abuse, including making threats or the infliction of emotional harm. For example, caretaker isolates victim—restricts visits, phone calls (unwilling to allow you to enter the home or speak to victim); caretaker is violent, aggressive, controlling, addicted or uncaring. 

Financial (fiduciary) abuse, including theft of such personal items as cash, investments, real property, jewelry. For example, lack of amenities that victim could afford; victim “voluntarily” giving inappropriate financial reimbursement for needed care and companionship; caretaker has control of victim’s money but fails to provide for victim’s needs; caretaker using victim’s financial resources for own needs; victim has signed property transfers, Power of Attorney, new will, etc. when unable to comprehend the transaction.  

Maltreatment of Patients in Nursing Homes; There Is No Safe Place, by Diana K. Harris and Michael L. Benson, was published by Haworth Press, Inc. in its Haworth Pastoral Press imprint in 2006. Don’t be misled by its physical size (only 146 pages, including glossary, bibliography and index) or its imprint. “This book is unique in two ways… it contains the first and only nationwide study of theft from patients in nursing homes.” (Preface) This is essential reading. 

Everyone should report all observed, known or suspected abuse. In Alameda County, contact Adult Protective Services of the Department of Adult and Aging Services, call 24 hours a day (510) 577-3500 or toll free (866) 225-5277 (866.CALL-APS). Referrals are confidential. In Contra Costa County, call (925) 957-2200 or (925) 646-2854 or the Elder Abuse Hotline (866) 353-3765; or email at the District Attorney’s office.  

California law (California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 15630- _____) requires some persons to report adult abuse. These mandated reportersare health care practitioners, clergy, care providers, law enforcement, financial institutions officers and employees, medical examiners, any person who has assumed responsibility for care of an elder or dependent adult. They report known or suspected abuse, by telephone (510) 577-3500, immediately or as soon as practicably possible. Written report is sent within 2 working days on the Report of Suspected Elder or Dependent Abuse, form SOC 341 is available for download from the California Department of Social Services web site. Mail the report to: Alameda County Department of Social Services, Adult Protective Services, 6955 Foothill Boulevard, Suite 300, Oakland, CA 94605, or fax it to(510)577-5615. 


The Senate Special Committee on Aging has been informed at a special hearing that in many states, the rising number of elder abuse cases threatens to overwhelm inadequately staffed adult protective service agencies. According to a report released in May by the federal Government Accountability Office, state agencies are also seeing increasinglycomplex cases involving multiple types of abuse. In the report’s survey, 25 of the 39 responding states reported that total funding for adult protective services over the past 5 years decreased or remained the same. 

Federal agencies need a more centralized system for tracking elder abuse, declared Dr. Mark Lachs, co-chief of geriatric medicine at Cornell University. Federal Administration on Aging officials argue that establishing a nationwide data collection system is difficult because there is no common state-level definition of elder abuse. Recommendations call for (1) the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop a national resource center for elder abuse information for protective services agencies in the states, and (2) a federal body to help determine what state-level elder abuse data would be useful for all states and the federal government to collect. 

Senator Herb Kohl (D /WI), chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, reintroduced the Elder Abuse Victims Act at the hearing. It would establish an office of elder justice within the federal Justice Department charged with protecting the elderly by strengthening law enforcement responses to abuse. 

The Vermont state agency responsible for overseeing investigations of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of elderly residents has agreed to eliminate a backlog of 300 cases awaiting investigation. Vermont Legal Aid and 2 advocacy groups had threatened to sue the Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living if officials had not agreed to the corrective action plan signed on May 31 by advocates and Commissioner Susan Wehry. Advocates had become aware of the size of the backlog in December at a meeting with state officials. Among the details in the corrective action plan: The state will hire additional temporary and permanent investigative staff to look into elder abuse cases. The backlog of complaints will be cleared by Oct. 1, 2011. The department must respond to all calls within 48 hours. The department must develop training materials for staff with input from advocates. Legal Aid and Disability Rights Vermont will monitor cases. [The Boston Globe, June 2, 2011.] 



In May, the California State Legislature approved Senate Concurrent Resolution 32 (SCR 32), authored by State Senator Lou Correa, honoring the contributions of California’s senior volunteers. Senator Correa annually organizes the Seniors Making a Difference Awards Breakfast, recognizing outstanding central Orange County senior citizens who volunteer their time, energy and talents to make a difference. SCR 32 proclaims permanently the month of May as "Senior Volunteer Month" in California 

SCR32 is sponsored by the California Senior Legislature. “The CSL is very grateful to Senator Correa for his support of California's seniors… Senator Correa recognizes that the seniors in our state have a lot to offer and that their quality of life should reflect dignity and respect," declared CSL Senior Senator Joanna Kim-Selby of Contra Costa County. 

CSL is a volunteer body of 40 Senior Senators and 80 Senior Assembly Members who are selected in elections supervised by the Advisory Councils in the 33 Planning and Services Areas (PSAs) in California, which were established by the federal Older Americans Act of 1965. (Did you vote in the last election?) The CSL’s primary mission is to assemble legislative proposals that affect senior citizens at the state and federal levels and to introduce them to members of the State Legislature or the Congress.  

An 80-year-old Berkeley man who was swindled out of $53,000 got a portion of the money back when it was recovered by officials of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (ICE) department. The elderly man was a victim of a Quebec-based telemarketing scam. A check was intercepted by the Project COLT (Center of Operations Linked to Telemarketing) investigative team in Canada, which includes agencies from the U.S. and Canada, including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the ICE HSI. Shane Folden is special agent in charge of San Francisco's ICE HSI.  

A legislative report released April 21, 2011 suggests that Californiais putting its elderly population at risk of theft and abuse because the state does not regulate in-home caregivers. The report by the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes found that California is one of a few states that do not regulate in-home care agencies. More than a quarter of caregivers accused or convicted of crimes had committed prior offenses. Many agencies do a shoddy job of conducting background checks on potential caregivers. Few people even know they have a right to request a background check on a potential caregiver. The report urges the state (1) to let clients check on past convictions, and (2) to create a registry that would allow clients to find caregivers who have been screened. (3) It recommends a public awareness campaign to let the elderly know they are entitled to a state Department of Justice background check when they are considering hiring a caregiver. 

Psychologists from the University of Otago in New Zealand have found that older people cannot lie as convincingly as younger people and are worse at detecting lies. Department of Psychology researchers compared young and older adults' skills at deception as judged by listeners within and outside their age group. 

Right-to-choose-to-die: Retired elementary school teacherSharlotte Hydorn, 91, says she's 'just interested in helping people' who might otherwise suffer painful deaths. FBI agents raided her home last week in an investigation of possible mail fraud or other violations. [“Woman selling 'suicide kits' reignites right-to-die debate,” by Richard Marosi, May 30, 2011 Los Angeles Times.] 

MARK YOUR CALENDAR : June, July and August. Be sure to confirm. 

Wednesday, June 8 10 A.M. Emeryville Commission on Aging. Meets monthly on 2nd Wednesday, at the Senior Center, 4321 Salem St. Confirm (510)596-3730. 

Thursday, June 9 5 P.M.,6 – 7:45 P.M. Lawyers in the Library, South. South Branch Library, 1901 Russell St. Free legal advice and help. Referrals to Alameda County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service, or to an appropriate free or low-cost legal service provider, if necessary. Wheelchair accessible. In-person sign-ups only, begin at 5 P.M. . Names pulled by lottery at 6 P.M.  

Thursday, June 9 7 -8:45 P.M. Café Literario. West Branch Library, 1125 University Avenue. Part 2 of facilitated discussion in Spanish of Julio Cortazar’s Rayuela. Cortazar (1914-1984) was an Argentine poet, short story writer, and translator whose pseudonym was Julio Denis. Rayuela, es la gran novela de Julio Cortázar. El libro donde el escritor argentino supo condensar sus propias obsesiones estéticas, literarias y vitales en un mosaico casi inagotable donde toda una época se vio maravillosamente reflejada. 

Tuesday, June 14 10 A.M. Mastick Senior Center. “V A Benefits and YOU!” Michael Ennis, Alameda County Veterans Service Officer, will provide an overview of VA Benefits. To reserve a seat, sign up in the office or call 747-7506. 

Tuesday, June 14 1-4 P.M. Annual Gay Day celebration. North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst corner MLK. (510) 981-5190.  

Wednesday, June 15 1 P.M. Power of Attorney & an Advance Health Care Directive. Presented by Pacific Elder Law. North Berkeley Senior Center. (510) 981- 5190. 

Wednesday, June 15 World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Advocates from around the world set out to promote awareness, in an attempt to prevent elder abuse, the “silent epidemic” that is unacceptable in any language or circumstance. More in June 8 and 15 Senior Power columns. 

Wednesday, June 15 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging. Meets on 3rd Wednesday at South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis. Confirm. (510)9081-5178.  

Thursday, June 16 12:15 – 1 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library Art & Music Dept. James Joyce & Jazz. Celebrate "Bloomsday" with Celtic/jazz vocalist Melanie O'Reilly and pianist Frank Martin, in a concert of original music inspired by Joyce's works, as well as contemporary arrangements of traditional works cited by Joyce. 

Saturday, June 18 11 A.M. – Noon. Landlord/Tenant Counseling, Central Berkeley Public Library. Housing Counselors from the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board offer free, one-on-one counseling sessions. (Third Saturday each month) They assist both tenants and landlords by answering questions and making referrals on housing related topics-- including security deposits, rent control, evictions, unpaid rent and other difficult issues. Contact Jacquelyn Morgan for more information at 510-981-7368 Ext 4917. 

Tuesday, June 21, 10 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 

“Victoria’s Legacy on the Island.” Judith Lynch serves on the City of Alameda historical Advisory Board. She will provide an overview on Victorian history and culture, highlighting the 19th century building of Alameda. This program will meet for 6 weeks, and include 4 slide presentations and 2 walking tours. Sign up in the Mastick Office or call 747-7506. Class limited to 25 participants. 

Wednesday, June 22 1:30 P.M. - 2:30 P.M. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Ave. Great Books Discussion Group meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month. This month's book is A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf. Rosalie Gonzales facilitates the discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. (510) 526-3720 x16  

Wednesday, June 22 1 P.M. Gray Panthers meeting. North Berkeley Senior Center. (510) 981-5190, 548-9696.  

Thursday, June 23 1:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center. Music Appreciation Class discussion and performance “Leroy Anderson: American’s Master of Light Music” 

Tuesday, June 28 3-4 P.M. Tea and Cookies at the Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. A book club for people who want to share the books they have read. (Monthly on the 4th Tuesday ) (510) 981-6100. 

Tuesday, June 28 1 P.M. Mastick Senior Center. California Relay Service & YOU! A representative from Hamilton Relay (one of two providers of the California Relay Service (CRS) free service offered through the California Public Utilities Commission) will explain the various programs available. Register in the Mastick Office or call 747-7506. 

Wednesday, June 29. 2 – 3:30pm Become a genealogical super sleuth at the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St., ready to research your family history. Electronic Classroom of the Central Library for the very popular introduction to, an online resource that offers searchable census tracts, immigration records, photos, stories and more. (510) 981-6100. 

Friday, July 15 8 A.M. – 2 P.M. Compassion & Choices of Northern California is a participant in the Healthy Living Festival. Oakland Zoo, 9777 Golf Links Road. For information, email 

Wednesday, July 20 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging. Meets on 3rd Wednesday at South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis. Check to confirm (510)9081-5178.  

Wednesday, August 10 10 A.M – 2 P.M. Compassion & Choices of Northern California is a participant in the Healthy Aging Fair Festival. Chabot College, 25555 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward. Email 

Helen Rippier Wheeler can be reached at, no email attachments or phone calls.