By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Tribal elders in Indian Country are reportedly abused at a rate (1 in 4) much higher than the national average (1 in 10). This and other facts and statistics about elder abuse were given during an Elder Abuse Awareness Walk on the evening of Thursday, June 15 at the Tsali Manor walking track.
The EBCI Family Safety Program Adult Protective Services (FSP-APS) reported they have received 155 reports from the program’s inception on Oct. 1, 2015 to May 31, 2017. Of those, 61 have been substantiated, 87 were unsubstantiated, and seven are currently still under APS investigation.
According to their statistics, financial exploitation is the number one reported type of abuse with 80 total reports followed by self-neglect 73, caregiver neglect 36, physical abuse 20, hoarders 5, verbal abuse 5, and sexual abuse 1. (Note: Per APS, “A report may have more than one type of allegation; therefore, the total numbers of allegations are higher than the number of reports.”)
The number of reports for FY2017 has already surpassed last year’s figures. From Oct. 1, 2015 – Sept. 30, 2016, there were 59 total reports. From Oct. 1, 2016 – May 31, 2017, there have been 96 total reports. In those, 43 percent of the alleged perpetrators were family members and another 43 percent were classified as caregiver/residential management. Ten percent of the alleged perpetrators were friends or neighbors and the remaining 4 percent were classified as “other”.
“Anytime that we can bring awareness to our community and our peers about very important issues, it’s important that we do that,” said Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed during Thursday’s event. “Coming together, as a community, to demonstrate our unity when faced with these issues really just demonstrates who we are as Cherokee people.”
APS breaks elder abuse into three main categories as such:
Abuse – improper use of physical restraints or medication; striking, slapping, pushing, kicking, pinching, or burning; force-feeding; sexual coercion or assault; verbal threats, harassment, intimidation, or disrespect
Neglect – leaving a vulnerable adult along for long periods; failure to provide safe living conditions; failure to meet basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, health, or medical care; failure of caregiver to seek medical care for elder or follow medically-prescribed treatment; self-neglect
Exploitation – cashing checks without authorization or permission; coercing or deceiving the elder into signing documents such as contracts or wills; misusing or stealing the elder’s money or possessions; transferring property, savings, or other resources without authorization; misuse of conservatorship, guardianship, or power of attorney
“Elder abuse is taboo in most societies as we know and especially in tribal communities,” commented Tim Lewis, EBCI Legal Assistance Office legal services attorney, who was the guest speaker for the event. “People do not speak of elder abuse.”
He added that many times elders do not recognize abuse as it is happening. “They do not think they’re being exploited. They do not think they’re being used. And, it’s not just something the elders have to recognize. Everyone in the community has to recognize this abuse.”
Lewis went on to encourage people to report suspected elder abuse. “Don’t just keep it under wraps because the more that happens, the less likely that anything is going to actually happen and prevent abuse from occurring.”
He noted that around 16 percent of the population of the United States is currently age 65 and over. “That number is expected to grow to about 20 percent in the next ten years. If you think of the number of elders that exist and the amount of abuse that occurs, it’s astronomical.”
A total of 10 percent of elders in the U.S. have “suffered abuse in one shape or another” said Lewis who noted that percent jumps up to 25 on tribal lands in the country. “That is something that we need to take those steps and prevent. We need to do whatever we can to help our elders. We love our elders. We care for our elders, but we really need to limit the amount of abuse that occurs.”
For more information on elder abuse or to make a report, contact EBCI Family Safety Program Adult Protective Services 359-1520 Monday – Friday 7:45am – 4:30pm. To make a report after those hours, contact Cherokee Dispatch (497-4131) and tell them you’d like to make an Adult Protective Services report.