LA GRANDE — Community Connection of Northeast Oregon spent a day shining a light on an important topic — elder abuse.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was Wednesday, June 15, and Community Connection helped raise awareness using informative placements in its senior centers in Baker, Grant, Union and Wallowa counties, according to Kathy Ganung, the senior service manager. The organization also ran World Elder Abuse Awareness Day themed bingo games.
“This is our first year participating and raising awareness, but it will become a yearly occurrence,” she said.
The team at Northeast Public Transportation — a service of Community Connection that provides bus rides throughout Baker, Union and Wallowa counties — all wore purple shirts or purple lapel pins for the day, Ganung said. Posters and brochures were also available on the buses.
Next year, Community Connection plans to also organize a walk to help raise more awareness, said Ganung.
According to the Oregon Department of Human Services, Adult Protective Services completed 106 abuse investigations of elderly persons or adults with disabilities in community settings in Union County in 2020. There were 46 investigations in Baker County, 42 in Grant County and 32 in Wallowa County.
A total of 10,726 investigations were conducted across the state, and 81% of the alleged victims were 65 years or older.
The Department of Human Services’ Administration for Community Living defines elder abuse as any knowing, intentional or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to vulnerable adults older than 60.
This includes physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse or neglect, according to the National Institution on Aging. Abuse can occur in the older person’s home, a family member’s home, an assisted living facility or a nursing home.
Financial exploitation — with 4,104 reports — was the most prevalent abuse allegation received by Adult Protective Services across the state in 2020. Verbal abuse and self-neglect were the next two highest reported, with 2,916 and 2,718 reports, respectively. Physical abuse had the highest substantiation rate, with verbal abuse and financial exploitation a few percentage points behind.
The state has taken steps to address and prevent elder abuse, according to the Oregon Department of Justice. In 2016, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum appointed a statewide prosecutor devoted entirely to elder abuse — making Oregon the third state in the U.S. to do so. Additionally, Rosenblum holds yearly conferences about elder abuse and has worked to ensure the elder abuse unit receives funding.