Help Stop Elder Abuse: Report It

Contributing Writer:  Crystal Baldwin

I can’t tell you how sad the topic of elder abuse and neglect makes me.  Since I was a young girl, I loved the elders in my life and maintained such deep respect for them and their life experience.  Unfortunately, “each year, an estimated 5 million older adults are abused, neglected, or exploited” (ACL.gov).  

Abuse is not just physical, it can be emotional and psychological, or include financial exploitation.  Neglect is of grave concern, too, because in cases of neglect elders are not getting the care they need and deserve.  Abusers can knowingly or unknowingly engage in such acts and may even demonstrate that they have good intentions.  Abuse and neglect, no matter how it is posed, is unacceptable.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation recommendations continue for those most susceptible to experience severe illness caused by the disease, including those 65 years of age and older and those with severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes (CDC).  Before the pandemic, social isolation was already a concern and an issue reported to our office’s Elder Protection Initiative.  Now, while those most susceptible to the illness remain in isolation, abuse and neglect can continue to occur for a longer period before it is seen by a bystander and reported.  Each of us must commit to protecting older adults.  

Know the signs of elder abuse.  The National Center on Elder Abuse has outlined the signs as follows:

Emotional and Behavioral:  unusual changes in behavior, or sleep, fear or anxiety, isolated or not responsive, sadness

Physical:  broken bones, bruises, and welts, cuts, sores, or burns, missing daily living aids, such as walker and hearing aids, torn or bloody underclothing, STDs without clear explanation, poor living conditions

Financial:  unusual changes in bank account or money arrangement, unusual or quick changes in will or other financial documents, fake signatures on financial documents, unpaid bills

Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.  On this day, let’s commit to reporting elder abuse and neglect and financial exploitation when we see it.  As good neighbors and compassionate people, we must report whenever we see signs of abuse and neglect.  We may be the only one who sees it and the only one who can report it.  


As a reporter, you are not alone, there are many agencies and organizations that are essential to eliminating elder abuse.  To simplify the reporting process, the following is a list of resources.

REPORT CONTACT
Life-threatening
situation
911
Suspected elder
abuse, neglect or
exploitation, including
financial exploitation
Local Police and
Adult Protective Services of the
Dept. of Aging and Independent
Living (800-564-1612), if about a
vulnerable adult
Abuse of a person
living in a nursing
home, assisted living
facility, or board and
care home
Long Term Care Ombudsman of VT
Legal Aid (800-889-2047)
Concerns regarding
licensed health care
facilities
Survey and Certification of the
Dept.of Aging and
Independent Living
(888-700-5330)
Domestic Violence VT Network
Domestic Violence Hotline
(800-228-7395)
Sexual Violence VT Network Sexual Violence Hotline
(800-489-7273)
Misuse of Social
Security
Benefits
Social Security Administration
Office of the Inspector General
(800-772-1213)
Medicaid Fraud and
Abuse
VT Attorney General’s
Medicaid Fraud Unit (802-828-5511)
Unauthorized Real
Estate Transfers
Vermont Legal Aid (802-775-0021)
Broker and Investment Advisor Fraud Dept. of Financial Regulation:
Securities Division (802-828-3420)
Bank Fraud Dept. of Financial Regulation:
Banking Division (888-568-4547)
Insurance Agent,
Adjuster, or
Carrier Fraud
Dept. of Financial Regulation:  
Insurance Division (800-964-1784)
Scams and
Identity Theft and
Consumer Fraud
VT Attorney General’s
Consumer Assistance Program
(800-649-2424)

If you are still not sure who to contact, call United Ways of Vermont 2-1-1 information and referral hotline (dial 211 or 802-652-4636).  They are a great resource, connecting Vermonters to organizations and agencies.  

More Resources:  
WEAAD: World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
National Center on Elder Abuse
Videos: Strengthening the Structure of Justice to Prevent Elder Abuse by the NCEA
Elder Abuse-Learn the signs and break the silence

Announcing: The Elder Protection Initiative

Last Friday, on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, our office made an important announcement: we launched a new unit focused on protecting older Vermonters. It’s called the Elder Protection Initiative, or EPI.

Supporting and protecting Vermont's aging population


The EPI is team of attorneys, investigators and staff from across the VT Attorney General’s Office (from its Criminal, Public Protection and Human Services Divisions) who will act to address issues facing older Vermonters through collaboration with government and community partners, public education, legislation, and enforcement. To read more about EPI, visit its website here: http://ago.vermont.gov/epi


The Listening Tour

The EPI has roots in a listening tour the Attorney General’s Office just completed. Throughout April and May, to better understand the unique challenges that older Vermonters face, a team from our Office visited each Vermont county, listening to older Vermonters and organizations that serve them. We shared meals in tight-knit communities, went on Meals on Wheels delivery routes, and shared in the varieties of joys and anguish that our elders are experiencing. We listened. We learned. And after meeting with dozens of older Vermonters and over 230 representatives of 65 organizations, we want to help.

Through our listening tour, we heard older Vermonters and organizations that serve them repeat similar concerns, including:

  • Isolation and lack of transportation
  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Lack of access to healthcare
  • Food insecurity
  • Finding affordable and suitable care for loved ones with Dementia
  • Difficulty accessing available information and resources
  • Our systems are struggling to uphold older Vermonter’s safety, security, and dignity

To help older Vermonters and those who serve them, our office established the Elder Protection Initiative described above. As the EPI embarks on its work, it will continue to listen and stay informed about issues facing older Vermonters.

First Collaborations

Already, the EPI has worked with Vermont 2-1-1 to address one of the most common concerns heard on the listening tour—difficulty accessing information and resources on programs and services that are available to older Vermonters (and their caretakers) where they live, from transportation to food delivery services (like Meals on Wheels). Vermont 2-1-1 maintains a 24/7 hotline and a website that provides just this information. To access this free information, dial 2-1-1 or visit vermont211.org.

EPI-Learn what we're doing

The Executive Director of 2-1-1, MaryEllen Mendl explains, “The 2-1-1 statewide system has been built over the course of the last 13 years for a public-private partnership between United Ways of Vermont and state government.  Allowing for a quality-driven platform for the delivery of professional information and referral, and a database containing thousands of community resources.” 2-1-1 is also committed to enhancing its capacity to assist callers with concerns specific to elder abuse and exploitation.

Thank you, Vermont 2-1-1, for this outstanding commitment to Vermont’s elders!  We look forward to seeing this collaboration flourish and many more develop as we work to support the needs of Vermont’s aging population.  The initiative has just started its efforts in support of Vermonters.  There are more developments and solutions that will come out of this group’s work. To stay connected, check in regularly on the Elder Protection Initiative page on the Vermont Attorney General’s Office website.

Contributing Writer: Crystal Baldwin