Santa Clara County agencies are reporting a 25 percent rise in reports of elder abuse, and County Adult Protective Services are struggling to provide immediate response to seniors in need.
"Our seniors, especially those with dementia or in poor health, are vulnerable to elder abuse at the hands of unscrupulous caregivers or con artists," Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager said. "We have to prevent this kind of victimization of our seniors, and abusers need to know that their crimes won't go unpunished."
The rise in elder abuse coincides with the aging of the baby boomer generation, and has had a dramatic impact on adult service programs. By 2020, the population for people over the age of 60 will double, according to the county.
In addition to a rising senior population, Yeager said part of the increase in abuse reports results from better reporting policies by groups such as financial institutions and clergy. However, Yeager expressed concern that many cases are still not reported due to intimidation, fear of further abuse or abandonment.
County officials and senior service leaders are attempting to raise awareness of the growing problem and are urging the legislature to provide a $20 million augmentation in this year's state budget, which is a fraction of what is really needed to help counties respond to the rising senior population, the county reported.
Conservative estimates indicate a $65 million gap between what it costs to run the statewide Adult Protective Services Program and its current funding, according to the county.
"Since Jan. 1, 2006, a baby boomer turns 60 every eight seconds," Director of the Department of Aging and Adult Services, Betty Malks said. "Due to the demographics of the aging population, the impact on service demands, and the increased number of reports, Adult Protective Services is struggling to provide an immediate response to all seniors who are victimized. Funding has not kept up, our ability to serve everyone has decreased and seniors are suffering as a result."
The Adult Protective Services program handles approximately 2,600 cases each year, according to the county.
To report a case of elder abuse call 800-414-2002.