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Preventing Elder Abuse is opening topic of seminar series

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image Feb. 12 is the first of four seminars presented by the South Shore Coalition for Mental Health & Aging. Photo Mitch Traphagen

An estimated six million elderly people suffer abuse each year — those are not numbers, they are our parents and grandparents.

By Mitch Traphagen

For anywhere from one to ten million older Americans, the so-called “Golden Years” are in fact a living nightmare. The stories of adult children returning home to live with their parents due to the slow economy make headlines, but the other end of that spectrum is also becoming true: aging parents are increasingly depending upon their adult children for care. For most such caregivers, that is no mere full-time job. Caring for an adult parent literally becomes a lifestyle and managing it can be difficult at best.

Beginning Feb. 12, the South Shore Coalition for Mental Health and Aging will be conducting their annual seminar series with the first installment covering the critically important but often unspoken issue of elder abuse. The series is entitled the 2013 Pie and Coffee Seminar Series with the tagline of “Come for the pie, stay for the seminar”. It is sponsored by the Sun City Center Chamber of Commerce and the Village Inn Restaurant of Riverview. The Village Inn is also donating pies for all four of the seminars.

Preventing Elder Abuse starts the series on a critically important note, not just for our parents and grandparents, but also for the caregivers, a group that includes both professionals and family members.

Elder abuse is a significant problem that is often overlooked and certainly under-reported. The National Center for Elder Abuse estimated that, as of 2005, between one and two million Americans age 65 or older had been injured, exploited, or otherwise mistreated by someone upon whom they depended for care and protection. It also estimated that at least five million elderly Americans were exploited financially. According to the NCEA, for every case of abuse, exploitation and neglect, at least five cases go unreported.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the numbers are only increasing. As of 2010, it is estimated that nearly 10 percent of seniors suffered some form of abuse, numbering nearly six million people, the vast majority of whom are female.

Although those are mere numbers lacking emotive qualities, behind them are living, breathing and vulnerable people, parents and grandparents, who have reached a point in life where they must depend upon others. Behind the statistics could well be your mother or father.

This first seminar is intended towards a wide audience because by a certain age, many people will be faced with caring for an aging parent in some manner. The Preventing Elder Abuse seminar will take place at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 12 at the Sun City Center Chamber of Commerce and will be presented by Patricia Henderson, Community Services Director of the West Central Florida Area Agency on Aging. Recognizing the wide and growing audience, Henderson will present information for professionals, caregivers and family members.

The second seminar in the series, to be held at 2:30 p.m. on March 21 at the Sun City Center Chamber, will be entitled, “Safe Homes Workshop” and will again be presented by a representative from West Central Florida Area Agency on Aging. The purpose of the workshop will be to provide information on how to make homes safer for seniors, which could delay the transition to assisted living facilities or nursing homes.

The third seminar, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on April 9 at the United Methodist Church of Sun City Center will address the issue of downsizing for seniors. One of the topics in that workshop will be entitled, “The Hearse Doesn’t Come With a Trailer Hitch So You Can’t Take It All With You.”  The workshop will provide information on the importance of appraisals for heirlooms and the best means for liquidating what is often many decades of collected valuables.

For many seniors, downsizing is a difficult and painful process, and a process in which they will depend entirely upon children to help them through. Almost everyone with elderly parents will eventually be faced with this situation. But, as elders move from homes to assisted living facilities and nursing homes, it is also a necessary process. Going hand in hand with that is the issue of hoarding, another topic that will be addressed during the workshop. The speakers for that seminar will be Dale Smekar of Downsizing Advisory Service and Laura Spaulding of Spaulding Decon, a Florida based emergency clean up service.

The fourth seminar, to be held in early November, is yet to be announced.

For anyone with aging or elderly parents or even spouses increasingly in need of additional care, on Feb. 12 you can take steps to help ensure that the years are as golden as possible for your loved ones by learning how to prevent their abuse. Everyone loves Village Inn pies so, go ahead, enjoy the pie, but come for your parents and loved ones.

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