It is unacceptable for a senior to end their life living with the memory of having been abused; it is far worse for them to be forced to continue to live with their abuser.

May is Elder Abuse Awareness Month.  

In the United States, it is estimated that one out of every 10 seniors (age 65 and older) has been a victim of abuse, and one in five has been victimized by financial exploitation.  

As 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day, cases of elder abuse are increasing.

Elder abuse remains largely hidden. For every case that is reported, an estimated 23.5 are not.

Abuse can take many forms, including physical and emotional abuse, financial abuse and neglect.  

In more than two-thirds of substantiated cases, the perpetrator is a family member in a caregiving role, usually an adult child or at times a nephew/niece.

That is why now, more than ever, seniors are at risk.

Following the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders, the first group quarantined were those 65 years of age and older. At that point in time, seniors lost contact with those who could protect them: outside family members, friends, neighbors, clergy, pharmacists, other professionals and even strangers.  

Further, social isolation is one of the strongest predictors of abuse. Now, many of our seniors are hidden and potentially victims of physical, financial, emotional and even sexual abuse. 

According to Dr. Laura Mosqueda, dean of the Keck School of Medicine at USC and a renowned expert on elder abuse, since the pandemic, there has been a massive increase in reports of abuse against seniors.  

Elder abuse has a profound effect on millions of older adults, as well as the people who love and/or care for them. Elder abuse can also be associated with increased risk of premature morbidity and mortality.

Therefore, for the past eight weeks, we have been calling on the public to be alert for signs of abuse and report what you fear to law enforcement, Adult Protective Services or our DA’s Office 24/7 Bi-lingual Victim/Witness Hotline: 805.568.2400.

You can raise awareness of this problem and support older adults in several ways, such as:

» Visiting an elderly neighbor who lives alone.

» Volunteering for a program or organization that benefits seniors.

» Confronting ageist messages by encouraging positive portrayals of older adults.

» If you see something, say something. Call 9-1-1 or Adult Protective Services (844.751.6729), or the Santa Barbara Sheriff”s Office (805.681.4100) or the Santa Barbara Police Department (805.897.2300) or our DA’s Office 24/7 Bi-lingual Victim/Witness Hotline (805.568.2400).

Every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Please do your part to honor and protect our vulnerable seniors.

Joyce Dudley is district attorney for Santa Barbara County. Vickie Johnson is a senior deputy district attorney.