Help bring elder abuse to light and to an end in Beaumont on Friday, May 2, during the fifth annual “Making Strides Against Elder Abuse” kickoff event and walk-a-thon.
May is Elder Abuse Awareness month and, in order to bring awareness to elder abuse and exploitation, Clairmont Nursing Home, Harbor Hospice, Beaumont Healthcare, College Street Nursing Home, Texas Home Health Hospice, Best Years Center and the Jefferson County Adult Protective Services Board are sponsoring a one-mile long walk-a-thon and kickoff event. The event takes place May 2 from 9 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. in Central Park at 2925 Fannin St. in Beaumont.
According to information provided by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Adult Protective Services, “Adult Protective Services (APS) investigates allegations of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of the elderly or adults with disabilities. When maltreatment is confirmed, APS provides or arranges services in an attempt to alleviate the problem.”
The agency’s “Everyone’s Business” campaign is an ongoing grass-roots effort that brings together many community, civic and professional groups to focus attention and resources on elder abuse prevention. The campaign includes conferences, presentations and other events throughout the month of May to raise awareness and understanding of adult abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.
APS community specialist Stephanie Williams said elder abuse is more common than many people realize. According to statistics provided by APS, Texas has more than 2.5 million residents age 65 or older per population projections. Last year, APS completed 69,383 investigations of people living at home in Texas and confirmed 48,392 victims of abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation. Jefferson County APS caseworkers completed 935 investigations of people living at home and confirmed 638 victims of abuse, neglect or financial exploitation. The most common threads are self-neglect — people who cannot or will not meet their own basic needs — and adult children who abuse or take advantage of their own parents. Statewide, APS referred 5,826 of the cases it completed last year to law enforcement.
The community is often not aware APS exists, Williams said, let alone what a variety of valuable social services the entity provides. She said May 2 is just the kickoff to a busy month for APS, and she hopes the many upcoming health fairs and proclamations in honor of Elder Abuse Awareness month will inform the public and motivate people to act when exposed to abuse.
“This month provides an excellent opportunity for our county to demonstrate its support in ending elder abuse and to support the numerous victims who are among us,” Williams said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to educate the public on the seriousness of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of the elderly population.”
Visit www.dfps.state.tx.us/Adult_Protection  to view a breakdown of services provided by APS.
“Everyone needs to know how to recognize the signs of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation and to report them when you see them,” said Beth Engelking, assistant commissioner for APS at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Service (DFPS). She added, “We also need community resources to help the people who are older or who have disabilities when they can no longer help themselves.”
Signs that could indicate an elderly person has been the victim of abuse include physical signs such as cuts, bruises, puncture wounds and burns, and behavioral signs like depression, anxiety, fear and isolation. Information about elder abuse and other signs and symptoms can be viewed at the www.everyonesbusiness.org  website.
The city of Beaumont will proclaim Elder Abuse Awareness month May 6 at City Council. The proclamation calls on the community to report elder abuse, which can happen to elderly people of varying means.
“Elder abuse is grossly underreported because the elderly who are being abused find it very difficult to tell anyone and are usually ashamed and sometimes afraid,” the proclamation reads. “Elder abuse happens to men and women of all income levels, all cultural and ethnic groups, whether they are in good health or incapacitated in some way, in poor neighborhoods and in suburbia.”
In addition to the walk-a-thon, guests at the May 2 event will have access to free refreshments, health and wellness information booths, free giveaways, door prizes and free blood pressure checks. The event is open and free to the public.
Join neighbors from around the area who are fighting to protect the elderly within your community. It’s everyone’s business.
For more information, contact APS community specialist Stephanie Williams at (409) 504-3690 or stephanie [dot] williams4 [at] dfps [dot] state [dot] tx [dot] us.