beth-sholom-elder-abuseSenior abuse is more prevalent than many people realize and “there are many unknowns and misconceptions about it,” says Deirdre Arnowitz, L.C.S.W. and Director of Resident Services. She hopes to bring greater clarity to the issue through the new Beth Sholom Lifecare Community Elder Abuse Program.

Arnowitz, together with CEO Mark Finkel and Woods Administrator Sue Berinato, designed the three-part program aimed at raising awareness about the problem and providing solutions for those in need. “We are providing education to the larger Jewish and general community about the nature of abuse, the potential for caregiver burnout and the highly charged dynamics that can occur in stressful situations,” she says.

The first stage of Beth Sholom’s program, an educational campaign, includes a senior health fair and a brochure. The campaign is supported by a $10,000 Impact grant from the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond. Beth Sholom is one of only five healthcare facilities with a Jewish affiliation in the U.S. that have an elder abuse program. The other facilities are located in the District of Columbia, Ohio, Connecticut and New York.

“This is a pilot program,” says Berinato. “Our first part right now is education and getting the word out to the community. But this is just the beginning.”

Beth Sholom will seek continued funding to provide counseling services and pastoral care for those affected by elder abuse (stage 2 of the program) and respite care for victims (stage 3).

“Mr. Finkel really felt this was a program that was worthy to look at, to draw some attention to this problem,” says Berinato. Elder abuse “is one of those things, like domestic violence. We don’t want to acknowledge it. We know it’s there, but we don’t really want to talk about it.”

Beth Sholom plans to bring the issue front and center with its Free Senior Health Fair on Nov. 12, which will offer health screenings as well as guest speakers from Henrico County Adult Protective Services and Senior Connections, who will discuss elder abuse–what it is, how to identify it and what to do about it.

The health fair will be the magnet that will draw people to the campus, says Berinato, “and while they’re here, they can learn about our elder abuse program.”

The program is open to the public, with complimentary shuttle service provided from Canterbury Baptist Church.

The program is targeted not only to the elderly but also to their caregivers, who are often weary from their tiring work and long hours. Some elderly resist having someone else take care of their needs and make decisions for them.

“There are different communication styles and oftentimes, the caregiver isn’t aware that their reaction is abusive,” says Arnowitz. “This is an effort on our part to engage the community, to help them with information, education, resources and assistance so that they don’t have to go it alone.”

Did you know?

Beth Sholom Lifecare Community is a member of the Central Virginia Task Force on Domestic Violence in Later Life, a local partnership of organizations committed to raising awareness and improving the community response to women aged 50 and older who experience domestic, sexual or family violence.

Facts about Elder Abuse:

Elder abuse refers to any knowing, intentional or negligent act by a family member, caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. It includes not only physical but sexual and emotional abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, abandonment and even self-neglect.

It’s a widespread problem. In Richmond, Chesterfield, and Henrico County, the Department of Social Services received more than 2,000 reports of abuse, neglect, self-neglect, and exploitation between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013.