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By Erin Smith

Elder abuse and neglect are issues that face many families. The Bladen County Division on Aging held an Elder Abuse Awareness Day to help their clients to be able to recognize the signs of abuse or neglect.

Christina Brewington with the Bladen County Department of Social Services addressed those in attendance and went over some signs and symptoms of abuse and neglect. She stated that in the 2014-15 fiscal year 24,500 cases of elder abuse and neglect were reported to Social Services Departments. Brewington noted that is a 60 percent increase since 2008.

Brewington asked those in attendance to give her some reasons for the increase in the number of reports. Some in the group guessed the numbers of reports are increasing because of longevity.

“People are living longer and that’s a very good reason (for more reports being filed). People are more aware now (of elder abuse) so they are reporting it and we have the Baby Boomers who are all getting to that age (retirement) and that is large group of people,” said Brewington.

She also noted that 90 percent of abusers of the elderly are either a family member or a caregiver. Brewington said some signs of elder abuse one can look for are unexplained bruises, fractures, black eyes, burns, pinch marks, scratches or they are fearful of the caregiver.

Brewington stated there are two types of neglect of the elderly. One type is neglect by the caretaker and the other type is self neglect. She said some signs of self neglect are weight loss because they are depriving themselves of food, poor hygiene, sores and decayed teeth, lack of medicine, isolation, in the case of those suffering from dementia, the person is found wandering outside the home.

Brewington said exploitation can occur when someone is using the elderly individual’s bank accounts. She said watch for new friends who are helping them with their bills or family members who suddenly show up and start living with the elderly family member.

Brewington explained what occurs when you make a report to the Department of Social Services. She noted that the information of the reporting person is kept confidential. Under North Carolina law, everyone is supposed to support suspected abuse or neglect of an elderly person.

Following Brewington’s presentation, Romall Watson, In-home Care Aide for the Division on Aging, and Bladen Community College SHIIP Counselor Sherwin Rice, spoke regarding the Senior’s Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP). Watson told the group that they will be receiving new Medicare cards which will no longer show their Social Security number. Instead it will have a number assigned to them by Medicare.

Watson said that the SHIIP program can help Seniors in navigating Medicare Part D, Medicare Supplemental insurance and Medicare Advantage plans. She said you will need to bring a complete listing of all of your medications and select a pharmacy of your choice. Watson advised that before accepting and finalizing any insurance plan, check with your doctor to make sure they accept that particular plan.

Rice advised everyone not to be afraid to ask questions of the SHIIP Counselor who is assisting you. It is important to make sure you understand completely what your selected insurance plan covers before accepting it, according to Rice.

“Have a trustworthy person to help you,” said Rice.

Bladen County Division on Aging Director Kelly Robeson thanked those who donated door prizes. The Seniors also played Bingo and Corn Hole games before lunch.