Passage from life to death: The tragedy of elder abuse

Having ‘a village’ vital to mobilizing care; June workshop set to raise awareness

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For Tempe council member Berdetta Hodge, the memories of agonies that people can experience as they age are particularly vivid. Over an eight-month period, her own grandfather suffered health setbacks, hopes and signs of recovery, only to end with his untimely death. She also remembers the challenges of developing ways to help care for the ailing relative as both she and other family members did what they could to make his recovery, or transition to the inevitable final days, more bearable for all involved.

Theirs, it seems, provides a valuable example of how that part of a loved one’s ultimate confrontation with life’s end is supposed to occur. Not every story unfolds the same way, however, Hodge says. Nor does every situation involve care that spans 24 hours, seven days a week. Her experience, she notes, benefitted from

“We need to shine a bright light on the prevalence of elder abuse as the ‘silent crime’ that robs our seniors of their dignity, health, financial security and, in some cases, their lives.” — Berdetta Hodge

“having a village around,” comprising a brother and five sisters. Nonetheless, it was hard on everyone. And while the strain affected those who were involved, she said, “It was all worth it. With the collaboration of extended family times in those golden years, we were there for each other.”

This, she says, represents an example of how family can ease the passage from life to death. Not all are so fortunate, however, and studies frequently reveal situations involving abuse of the individual being cared for. This, it has been explained, is where planners of the June 15 informational session hope to raise awareness.

“We have to educate people to make sure how not to take their stress out on the family members we’re caring for,” she says—to recognize when abuse by others may be taking place. According to Hodge, nationally aggregated statistics show that approximately one in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse, with estimates ranging as high as five million affected each year. So when she and Mayor Corey Woods, who is working jointly with Hodge to increase understanding, their message will coincide with the national observance of Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

According to Hodge, the day’s discussion will focus on the seven types of elder abuse as well as how to avoid becoming a victim. Said Hodge: “I’m honored to be hosting this important event with experienced public safety leaders from city of Tempe and Maricopa County, joined by Linda Arters, an elder justice advocate and Tempe resident.

“We need to shine a bright light on the prevalence of elder abuse as the ‘silent crime’ that robs our seniors of their dignity, health, financial security and, in some cases, their lives.” The one-hour event features a panel discussion about recognizing, preventing and reporting elder abuse, followed by a Q & A. In addition to Woods and Arters, Hodge will be joined by panelists including Assistant Tempe Police Chief Dane Sorensen; Interim Tempe Fire and Medical Rescue Chief Darrell Duty; Maricopa County Deputy Sheriff James McFarland; Deputy County Attorney Jared Price of the Family Violence Division; and Deputy County Attorney Mary Harriss of the Fraud Division of the chief attorney’s office.

This marks the fourth consecutive year that Woods other city officials have recognized the day of awareness. Proclamations and community events have promoted education and resources to help protect Arizona seniors. According to planners, elder abuse statistics are staggering. One in 10 Americans ages 60 and older have experienced some form of abuse, yet only one in 14 cases come to attention of authorities.


• Elders who have been abused have a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who have not been mistreated.

• Belittling, threats or other uses of power and control by individuals are signs of verbal or emotional abuse.

• For each case of financial exploitation, 44 cases go unreported. Studies today estimate losses of $36.5 billion and growing to $2.5 trillion by 2035.

• Elder abuse is not just physical, it can be emotional and psychological, neglect, sexual, isolation, undue influence and financial and material exploitation.

• Older adults may become vulnerable due to isolation, physical or mental disabilities and dependence on others for assistance. Most perpetrators of elder abuse are family members.

Reservations: cepand_alizadeh@tempe. gov or 480-350-8597. Details: hodge. The program is scheduled 9-10 a.m. at Friendship Village, Tempe.



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