Elder abuse a growing concern for SF seniors

Cases of elder and dependent adult abuse in the City jumped 18 percent in 2017, according to an annual report released Tuesday by the Family Violence Council in San Francisco released today.

Adults over 65 are the fastest growing age group in the city, currently make up 17 percent of the population, a 3 percent increase from 2010. They are expected to make up more than 30 percent of the population by the year 2060, according to city estimates.

And with that aging population comes an increased need for support and protection from abuse, officials said Tuesday.

“Aging can bring particular vulnerabilities, such as illness, loss of mobility, or the death of a partner. Elder people may be reliant on someone else for their needs,” the report states.

The abuse faced by dependent adults and elders is not only on the rise, but shifting as well. Despite the increase in cases, actual physical abuse against the elderly has declined by 30 percent. In its place, however, instances of financial abuse are trending up, according to the report.

Seniors are particularly vulnerable to members of their family taking property, be it real estate, personal property or money, through the pressure of undue influence.

“If you don’t do this, I’ll put you in a care home,” said Akile Ceron, program director for the Adult Protective Services Program, to illustrate the point.

“We investigate and we consult with elder law attorneys that are aware of civil remedies and try to enlist a system for the victims to pursue remedies and recover properties or assets,” Ceron said.

The report also draws attention to the low rates of police investigations into financial abuse. Of the 428 cases of financial abuse against the elderly reported to the police, only 58, or 14 percent, were investigated, less than half of the rate seen for all other types of abuse.

Last year just 40 percent of all physical abuse cases, 46 percent of child abuse cases and 45 percent of domestic violence reports were investigated by the police, the report states.

The report also documents the success the City has had in reducing the rates of substantiated cases of child abuse. In 2017 alone there was only 509 substantiated cases a 25 percent drop from the previous year’s 683, and overall cases have decreased 67 percent since 2003.

Emily Murase, director of the Department on the Status of Women, credited some of that success to the Family and Children’s Services Division’s creation of a workgroup focused on the ‘intersection of child abuse and domestic violence.’

“San Francisco is the first council in the state to address child abuse, domestic violence and elder abuse at one table,” said Emily Murase, director of the Department on the Status of Women.

Barrett Johnson, program director of Family and Children Services, said the reduction in child abuse cases has also led to a large drop in the San Francisco County foster youth population, part of a statewide trend.

However, the drop in substantiated cases are not reflected in the reported number of allegations, which only fell by 6 percent. Furthermore data also shows a substantial gender and racial disparities.

“Since 2014, 98 percent of all victims of sexual abuse have been children of color, 81 percent of that were female,” the report states.

“You can see in the report that we have work to do to make sure that our system doesn’t replicate or reflect the biases of larger society,” Johnson said.


Victor Tence
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Victor Tence

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