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Davis Journal

Elder Abuse Awareness Day sheds light on a common problem

Jun 10, 2021 01:33PM ● By Becky Ginos

CLEARFIELD—In 2020 there were 761 allegations of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation in Davis County. The average age of victims was 68 years old. It’s a growing problem that sometimes goes unnoticed. In an effort to shed light on it, June 15 has been designated as Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

“The state will be doing something new this year,” said John Cowan, Outreach and Advocacy Bureau Manager for the Davis County Health Department. “They will be holding a virtual conference on that day with speaker Paul Greenwood who is an elder law attorney who has passionately worked his entire career on elder abuse.”

Elder abuse is a common problem, he said. “Millions of dollars are lost to scammers, fraud and financial exploitation. About four or five years ago we started a coalition called CAPE (Coalition for Abuse Prevention of the Elderly.) It’s made up of a group of professionals to take actionable steps to combat that plague.”

CAPE meets monthly to discuss issues affecting senior citizens, said Cowan. “Victims come and share their stories and we discuss individual cases to come up with creative solutions.”

It’s important for folks to realize that the perpetrators are usually relatives, he said. “Fifty-nine percent are relatives of the victim, 7 percent are caretakers, 4 percent are friends and 12 percent the relationship is unknown. In almost all cases they are someone they know and trust.”

Cowan said there are some red flags that someone might be suffering elder abuse. “Watch for physical signs like unexplained bruises, untreated sores, welts, etc. They may be lacking medical aids they used to have like a walker, dentures or their glasses are gone.”

Look for unusual changes in sleep or they’re isolating, depressed or not responding, he said. “Also watch for a change in banks or money management, unpaid bills or fraudulent signatures. A change in behavior is a big one or there’s something they are excessively worried about. Ask them about that.”

Isolation during the pandemic was so difficult for older adults, Cowan said. “Many have declined physically, mentally, failed to thrive and passed away. A daughter of a woman who was in a facility said, ‘they protected my mother to death.’”

It’s heartbreaking, he said. “Getting visitation into a facility has been so important. They need that socialization.”

By far the most common form of elder abuse is financial exploitation followed by emotional abuse, said Cowan. “The vast number of unreported cases are scams because people are embarrassed or ashamed. We need to help our loved ones know that they don’t have to be ashamed if they fall victim to a scam. It’s heartbreaking how much money is lost in the state of Utah to scammers.”

If someone suspects elder abuse they can make a referral to Adult Protective Services, he said. “If something is just not right, report it. You don’t have to have proof just a suspicion that abuse is occurring and they’ll investigate.”

Referrals are completely confidential and the person who made the report name will not be exposed, said Cowan. “We’d rather it get reported and turn out to be nothing than having it not reported and find out someone is enduring abuse.”

To make a report call Adult Protective Services at 1-800-371-7897 Monday – Friday from 8 – 5 or go online at