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Nearly 20,000 Reports of Abuse, Neglect of Elderly and Disabled in 2011

Governor supports new pilot program in budget, proclaims Elder Abuse Awareness Month

For release: Immediate    May 11, 2012
Contact: Lori Walston (919) 855-4840

RALEIGH - There were nearly 20,000 reports of abuse, neglect or exploitation of elderly citizens and younger adults with disabilities made to North Carolina’s county departments of social services in 2011, according to data released today by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). In response to these numbers, Governor Bev Perdue dedicated $2.3 million in her budget to support an innovative Adult Protective Services pilot program in six counties across the state. [Chart for county-by-county data.]

She also proclaimed May 11 through June 18 Vulnerable Adult and Elder Abuse Awareness Month — the time period between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day weekends — and urged all North Carolinians to take extra time and care to check on vulnerable neighbors, friends and family members.

Governor Perdue recognized that the state’s current adult protective services program is outdated and ill-equipped to respond to the needs of and threats to seniors and younger adults with disabilities. Current law does not allow for proactive, preventative measures for responding to adults at risk of abuse, neglect or exploitation. This leaves a potentially dangerous gap in the supports available to vulnerable adults, including our growing elderly population which is expected to double in the next 20 years.

“We need to be more aware of our neighbors who may be at risk,” said DHHS Secretary Al Delia. “If abuse or neglect is suspected, no matter what the age or level of ability, someone should be able to step in and offer assistance. The governor’s investment in a system to protect older adults begins to fill a crucial gap in community care.”

The pilot program funding would go toward helping the local departments of social services to implement a broader, more preventive approach to protecting vulnerable adults. Assisting people who have already suffered abuse, neglect or exploitation is of course essential; but the ability to intervene sooner could potentially allow some people to preserve resources and decrease hospitalization, emergency service and institutionalization usage and costs.

Data and research show:

  • Older adults who are abused, neglected and/or exploited are three times more likely to die within 10 years – and four times more likely to die from heart disease specifically.
  • 70 percent of mistreatment reported in North Carolina happens to persons age 60 and older, the majority of whom live in the community.
  • The most common form of mistreatment is neglect, with 69 percent of the cases involving self-neglect, where victims are unable to care for themselves adequately.

Signs of elder abuse or abuse of an adult with a disability may include:

  • Bruises, burns, cuts, or scratches;
  • Malnutrition;
  • Untreated medical conditions;
  • Unsafe or unsanitary housing;
  • Mental anguish and distress;
  • Mistrust toward others;
  • Mismanaged property, finances or savings; and/or
  • Inability to provide needed care.

If you suspect someone is being abused, neglected or exploited, report your suspicions to the adult protective services intake unit of the county department of social services where the affected person lives. Contact information for county departments of social services is available at: www.ncdhhs.gov/dss/local.

Anyone who suspects that an adult with a disability needs protective services is required by North Carolina law (General Statute 108A-102) to report this information. If you report suspected abuse, your name will not be shared, even if your suspicions prove wrong. County officials will have the responsibility of evaluating the situation and taking appropriate action after you share your concerns.

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