Elder abuse is a serious public health concern that continues to grow as our population ages.
A recently launched campaign highlights kupuna neglect and financial abuse in Hawaii.
Elder abuse includes physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, as well as neglect, abandonment, and financial exploitation.
“It’s not only exploitation. They actually sometimes are at risk of just not knowing how to take care of themselves, and they don’t always have caregivers that are involved and they don’t know where to go for help,” said Joey Keahiolalo, chief program officer for the non-profit organization Child and Family Service.
Child and Family Service partnered with the Honolulu Subarea Health Planning Council and the Elder Abuse Justice Unit of the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney to produce the campaign.
“We’re always talking about education and prevention, especially when it comes to elder abuse,” said senior deputy prosecuting attorney Scott Spallina. “It’s a lot better to stop a crime from happening than to be reactive and try to pick up the pieces afterwards.”
Spallina says between 2008 to 2014, his office saw a 300-percent increase in elder abuse cases on Oahu and adds that they receive an average of 45 calls a month from the public.
“People are losing their entire life savings. They’re losing their homes. They’re losing everything, and we’re talking about a community that’s on a fixed income for the most part, so any theft from them is very dramatic for them,” he said.
In 2016, the Hawaii’s Adult Protective and Community Services Branch investigated 1,048 abuse allegations. Of those involving a victim 60 years and older, about 33 percent of them involved caregiver neglect, 21 percent financial exploitation, 25 percent self-neglect, 12 percent psychological abuse, 8 percent physical abuse and 1 percent sexual abuse.
“If it’s a neighbor, or maybe it’s a UPS person, or anyone who is in contact with them but isn’t quite as close, maybe they’re not aware of where to go and maybe just report something they’re not sure of,” said Joseph Burke, chair of the Honolulu Subarea Health Planning Council.
Of the investigated cases, 61 percent of the victims were women and 70 percent of the abuse occurred in the victim’s own home, nearly half of them by a family member.
“There are resources out there, so if you are a victim of a crime, no need to be ashamed. No need to keep it to yourself. Tell somebody. Report it,” Spallina said.
For advice on elder abuse prevention, call the Hawaii Aging and Disabilities Resource Center at (808) 643-ADRC (2372).
For more information about reporting elder abuse, call the Elder Abuse Justice Unit at (808) 768-7536.