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Forum held to examine abuse of the elderly

Posted: Jun 08, 2018 4:26 PM Updated:

They're the island's oldest and wisest. Unfortunately, with age, the elderly also become the most vulnerable to abuse. While the month of May might have marked Senior Citizens Month, awareness efforts continue. Earlier this week, the Pacific Judicial Council hosted a 3-day workshop focused on elder abuse.

Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it isn't there. "It's a hidden activity. Generally the elderly, if they are being abused, nobody knows it because of the nature of aging and also because the nature of people not perceiving that that can happen to an elder," stated Retired Judge Karen Howze from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the non-profit Futures Without Violence. She's just one of the speakers in the 2018 Pacific Judicial Council's workshop focused on elder abuse, held earlier this week.

Howze said, "Elder abuse is becoming one of the most pervasive issues related to family violence in the United States and quite frankly, across the world."

That's why the issue is before the Pacific Judicial Council, which includes judges from not just Guam, but also the CNMI, Palau, American Samoa, and FSM. Justice Phillip Carbullido said, "We're hoping to try and have a collaborative, collective approach to these types of issues, and this is the purpose of the Pacific Judicial Council. They're a very important part of our community. We look up in terms of our elders and we want to make sure they are protected in our community ."

Howze added, "What we're trying to say to the judges is this is a reality. It's going to grow because the baby boomers are becoming older, and the needs of those folks, like myself, are going t grow, so we can get in front of this so you don't have a crisis. So you don't have deaths that could've been avoided by creating a sense within the community that this is going to be an ongoing issue and we've got to be in front of it."

So, what are the signs of elder abuse? Howze said, "The signs are if you don't see somebody for a while if appears they may be less focused. Maybe they need additional services. I know here, my understanding, because of the family connections, but also because of the faith community that there are people who have eyes on folks who are older, but we have to be alert in the community. Because if somebody doesn't show up for a couple of days, maybe there's something going on if a person comes to the doctor's office and there may be a different way they are acting, maybe cognitively that should be raised with the doctor and the doctor should raise some concerns, as well."

If you're a social worker, a teacher, or a family member and want to know where you can learn more, visit the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, at NCJFCJ.org.

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