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ELDER AFFAIRS

Annual 2014 Elder Affairs Liaison Report:

Generally the role of Elder Affairs Liaison differs little from year to year. But we are noting some concerning trends. Working closely with the COA we identify and intervene in cases involving seniors who face cognitive and physical impairment, fall prey to fraud or domestic assault, or who suffer from substance abuse.
We are seeing more and more cases of seniors suffering the effects of alcohol or drug addiction. Seniors can be particularly at risk. They may once have been “social” drinkers, but now, having lost a spouse or friends and perhaps their driving privileges, begin to rely on alcohol for their constant companion. Their medications, though legally prescribed, are often combined with alcohol or taken in excess. A common cycle that develops is impairment, leading to a fall, next the hospital, rehab, and finally back home with the cycle repeating itself over and over, leaving the senior more frail and less able to handle their lives with each episode.
Many agencies, like fire and police, the COA, healthcare facilities, Elder Services of Cape Cod and others, spend inordinately large amounts of money and time to protect these people. As more baby boomer seniors retire here to “age in place” far away from their families and their support system, we will be experiencing a surge in incidents of this type. Our children and our seniors are two of the most vulnerable factions of our society. They require special care and sensitivity in our approaches.
Mental health issues come into play with seniors even more than in the younger population as Alzheimers and dementia enter the picture. These changes in mental status require that our community be especially responsive to the complications that can arise when there is an overlap of impaired mental judgment and owning and operating lethal weapons, be they guns or motor vehicles.
Just like all of us, seniors become victims of telephone and computer fraud. They, however, are more often targeted. Sometimes, financially unsophisticated, too trusting, or suffering from dementia, they are much more likely to suffer financial abuse. This leads further to identity fraud, a quagmire from which few can easily extricate themselves, let alone those who have made it to the eighth or ninth decade of life.
Our town agencies often work closely in teams, attempting to help residents dealing with hoarding issues, home safety concerns, transportation problems and family difficulties. As I have said before, growing old is not without its challenges, but there is no better place to do it than Harwich, where there is always a cadre of caring professional people who will give their best efforts. I am once again appreciative that I have been given the opportunity to live and work in a town that cares in thought, word and deed about its residents and visitors, both young and old.