Sam Bauman: Seniors at heightened risk for abuse

Every couple of months the Carson City Senior Retired Volunteer Program presents an extensive class in subjects respite workers need to know about, such as dementia, like Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's affliction. The sessions for some 40 respite volunteers usually take place at the Western Nevada College Reynolds Center for Technology. This is a modern classroom with all kinds of educational help such as the ability to link up with RSVP offices by TV around the state.

Last week's session was on the subject of Elder Abuse Training and much more extensive than the layman might expect. Maria Coe of the Nevada Aging and Disability Services made the 90-minute presentation. Spread about the state, ADSD offices include Carson City. It is the only agency in the state that investigates elder abuse, other than law enforcement units. It is not funded for emergency response to abuse.

Mission of the Elder Protective Services is "to assist older persons, age 60 and over, who are abused or neglected, isolated or exploited by investigating and providing or arranging for services to alleviate and prevent further maltreatment while safeguarding their civil liberties."

Nevada imposes sentencing enhancements, increased penalties, when a victim is a person over the age of 60, normally a prison term twice as long as is normally allowed for the same offense.

It's a big job. There are some 15,000 Carson City residents who are over the age of 60, which Nevada law identifies as elders. And finding out about abuse is demanding and at the same time limited in what kind of investigation can be conducted.

I won't go into the entire presentation and will save that for a detailed report, but for right now let's look at some of the aspects of elder abuse. It's not a simple subject and requires careful examination.

For instance, here are the types of abuse: physical, psychological and sexual. Then there's neglect of self (failing to take prescribed medications, for instance) and exploitation.

This last category is one that speaker Coe said has been growing, and it is using the elder's finances to enrich a caretaker. And then there is isolation, keeping an elder out of contact with the outside world.

"Abuse" is defined as willful and unjustified infliction of pain, injury or mental anguish on an older person or a vulnerable one; deprivation of food, shelter, clothing or services needed to maintain the physical or mental health of an older person.

Adding to the complexity of dealing with abuse is the legal responsibility of almost all who come into contact with an elder to report evidence of abuse, including respite givers. The only category of persons who is not required to do so are lawyers, because of the confidential nature of their relation as defined by law (Coe said steps are being taken to resolve this question).

This is only the briefest report on the elder abuse subject. I'll go into it more deeply in another report, but this should give readers an idea of the extent of the problem. Almost all of us have relatives or friends who might be subject to abuse - often the elders have no protection other than what friends can offer. And the kinds and severity of abuse are many, and we need to know of them.

More on this soon.


It's natural to look for quick help when Alzheimer's strikes, despite the fact that research thus far has not shown drugs to be effective. According to Consumer Reports, drugs that have been approved include donepezil (Aricept and generic) and memantine (Namenda).

Large-scale analysis by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reported that drugs didn't delay the onset of Alzheimer's or improve or maintain mental function.

This is a pretty strong statement and readers should talk to their personal physicians about the use of such drugs. Costs can be high on a continuing basis, as much at $365 a month for one down to $183 for another.

Consumer Reports also notes that men who spend an hour a week weight training lessen the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 13 percent. Do a combined five hours or more a week means a 50 percent decrease of risk. Doesn't mention how heavy the weights should be. (I have found that the most difficult weight is reps with 8-pound weights straight out from the shoulders. Left arm always gives out first.)

And for more vitamin D, I try to get enough time on the ski slopes strong sun for my dose. I try to spend at least five hours a day skiing a couple of times a week. That may not work for everyone, but it does for me. Otherwise, be sure to have a good breakfast, which usually includes milk, a good source of vitamin D.

• Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.


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