Bethany J. Royer
PIQUA – Silo management doesn’t work, says Ursel McElroy Drake, M.A., Deputy Director of Education and Policy for the Ohio Attorney General’s Crime Victim Section, at an elder abuse awareness program held at the Piqua YWCA on Friday.
Drake was the guest speaker, helping those who may work with elders in their community learn to identify abuse and bring “real solutions to real problems” as with the increasing number of those 60 years and older so too has the number of abuse cases. The United States Department of Justice estimates one in every 9 elder Americans suffer a form of abuse each year and for every case reported, five cases of abuse go unreported.
Elder abuse is defined as physical, sexual, verbal and emotional abuse, neglect including abandonment, and financial exploitation and undue influence, according to information provided by the Attorney General’s office.
The YWCA program not only offered educational material and discussions with Drake at the helm, but several cases regarding abuse such as a video clip of Nancy, a woman who had taken care of her elderly mother after the latter had a stroke.
Nancy posed a striking figure in the video as a thin elder woman with a tall weave of gray hair, large glasses, and gold pin of the cross attached to her shirt collar. She spoke in depth of the verbal and physical abuse she enacted on her mother, from verbal threats and belittling, to striking the older woman in such a manner as to not leave marks, as part of her community service.
“Is Nancy a stressed caregiver?” asked Drake of the 60-plus in attendance after closing the video. A significant number of hands rose in agreement with some individuals expressing empathy for the duress the caregiver must have been under.
“Is Nancy an abuser?” Continued Drake and again, another significant number of hands rose into the air.
The clip was a pivotal moment for those in the audience, as Drake emphasized never lose sight of the victim and wanted to send a clear message that no one agency in a community can provide all the care an elderly individual in an abusive situation may need. This was in response to an equally if not more troubling case of Verbalee T. an elderly woman who suffered mental, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her husband.
Over the course of seven years, Verbalee T. would go in and out of the care of an area hospital and nursing homes for a variety of ailments and injuries, along with going in and out of the eye of law enforcement, adult protective services, family and others - until her death.
The failure of stopping Verbalee’s abuse and suffering, says Drake, was the lack of one group working with the other, or silo management.
It was very clear, said Drake, that enough reports and occurrences were available to support Verbalee as being abused for quite some time. However, the failure of one group working another failed the elder, stating she was never offered a safety plan by those who had direct contact with her.
“The point here is, in your community, how do you handle these tough cases? Do you have in your community – teams to discuss? If you work in silos you will get this result,” Drake pointed to the screen behind her showcasing Verbalee’s ordeal. “If you work together as a team, you have a better shot at providing a good outcome or the best outcome possible for an older victim.”
The Elder Abuse Awareness Program was sponsored in collaboration with the Family Abuse Shelter of Miami County Inc., Miami County Recovery Council, the YWCA Piqua and was a macro project by Lynn Marroletti, program director for the YWCA Piqua.
Bethany J. Royer may be reached at (937) 773-2721 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall