While abuse by hired caretakers makes up only 5 percent of all elderly abuse in Mesa County officials say reported senior abuse is in the rise.
Officials with the Mesa County Department of Human Services say they have seen an increase of almost 20 percent. They said they think the increase in reported abuse cases of the elderly is due to more awareness in the community, more people realizing that seniors are just as vulnerable as children and more people are doing something about it.
On average the Mesa County Department of Human Services gets a call, 35 times a month, that an elderly adult has been abused. Karen Martsolf with the Department of Human Services says, "As of July 2009 we received 238 referrals."
Abuse can be physical, financial and even self neglect. The Department of Human Services says 59 percent of all senior abuse cases are self neglect, where a senior stops taking care of themselves and doesn't have anyone to do it for them. Just 5 percent happen while at a nursing type facility.
Martsolf says the county is actively looking to prevent these types of abuse through education and outreach. "We work with the staff to mitigate those types of situations and really do everything we can to ensure these kinds of things don't happen," says Martsolf.
Martsolf says signs of senior abuse can be emotional as well as physical. "People who are otherwise very verbal becoming very quiet and not trusting of others."
In Mesa County there are more than 20,000 seniors 65 years and older. The Department of Human Services says if anyone suspects abuse is happening to please call them on their anonymous intake line at 248– 2888.