Press Release

State of Florida
Department of Children and Families
Rick Scott

David E. Wilkins

Vicky Abrams - Regional Director

June 13, 2011
MEDIA CONTACT: DCF Communications
(850) 488-4855

DCF Northwest Region Recognizes Elder Abuse Awareness
Day, Educates on Elder Mistreatment

Adult abuse and neglect is the most under reported of crimes against the elderly

PANAMA CITY, FLA. - The Northwest Region of the Florida Department of Children and Families is helping to raise awareness about adult abuse and neglect by talking about the issues, as the 6th Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is observed on June 15.

Each year, thousands of elderly adults and individuals with disabilities are mistreated by family members, by caregivers and by others responsible for their well being.

“This day serves to remind us of our responsibility to protect the elderly—the generation that laid the groundwork for current and future leaders of our country,” said Vicki Abrams, Northwest Regional Director for the Department of Children and Families. “Our goal is to partner with the community to ensure needs are met in the least restrictive environment for the safety and well being of vulnerable adults in our community.”

Everyday there is a headline in the news about senior citizens who have been abused, neglected or exploited, often times by people they trust. No one really knows how big the problem is because few cases are identified or reported. Experts estimate that one in six or fewer cases are reported and investigated. Elderly people are reluctant to report their mistreatment and they often times go without the help they need and the help they deserve.

In 2010, Circuit 14, which includes Bay, Gulf, Washington, Holmes, Calhoun and Jackson Counties, received 1,162 reports of adult abuse, neglect, or exploitation—an increase of over 200 reports from 2009. Of those reports, 438 closed with findings, either indicated or verified.

Concerned citizens can make reports to the Florida Abuse Hotline. Trained counselors screen allegations of adult abuse/neglect/exploitation to determine whether the information meets criteria of an abuse report. If all the factors are met, a report is taken and a protective investigation is started to confirm whether there is evidence that abuse, neglect, or exploitation occurred; whether there is an immediate or long-term risk to the victim and whether the victim needs additional services to safeguard his or her well-being.

What Can I Do to Prevent Elder Abuse?

  • Report suspected mistreatment to the local abuse registry and/or law enforcement. Although a situation may have already been investigated, if you believe circumstances are getting worse, continue to speak out. The number to call is 1-800-96ABUSE or 1-800-962-2873.
  • Keep in contact – Talk with your older friends, neighbors and relatives. Maintaining communication will help decrease isolation, a risk factor for mistreatment. It will also give the vulnerable adult a chance to talk about any problems they may be experiencing.
  • Be aware of the possibility of abuse – Look around and take note of what may be happening with your older neighbors and acquaintances. Do they seem to be withdrawn, nervous, fearful, sad or anxious, especially around certain people, when they have not seemed so in the past?
  • Contact your local Area Agency on Aging office to identify local programs and sources of support, such as Meals on Wheels. These programs help elders to maintain health, well-being, and independence – a good defense against abuse. The local agency is Council on Aging and their phone number is 850-769-3468.
  • Volunteer – There are many local opportunities to become involved in programs that provide assistance and support for seniors. Call Council on Aging, 850-769-3468, for an opportunity to volunteer your services.