Elder abuse is on the rise, driven by the isolation of the pandemic and a rapidly aging population, said Peter Jacob, a licensed social worker at Jewish Family Service of Central New Jersey in Elizabeth.
Mr. Jacob directs the agency’s Project CEASSE (Combatting Elder Abuse through Supportive Services and Education) The four-year-old program, which serves Union County, recently received a $20,000 grant from the Sephardic Foundation on Aging.
The grant will help serve 30 victims of abuse and neglect with mental health services and case management, Mr. Jacob said.
Joshua Hoffman, executive director of the Sephardic Foundation on Aging, said, “The covid-19 pandemic opened our eyes to the prevalence of elder neglect and abuse in our society. JFS of Central New Jersey’s expertise and experience in providing services for older adults dealing with neglect was a natural fit for the Foundation’s desire to help provide trauma-informed care to older adults who desperately need that support.”
“We are honored to be supported by the Sephardic Foundation on Aging, which has a notable history in fostering innovation in services to our older adults,” Mr. Jacob said.
Project CEASSE is also funded by the Jewish Federations of North America — Center on Holocaust Survivor Care and Institute on Aging and Trauma’s Expanded Critical Supports grant.
The National Council on Aging describes elder abuse as a silent problem that robs seniors of their dignity and security and can cost them their lives.
Up to five million older Americans are abused every year, and the annual loss by victims of financial abuse is estimated to be at least $36.5 billion.
“Older adults can experience many other forms of abuse — physical, emotional, sexual, neglect and abandonment,” Mr. Jacob said.
Project CEASSE provides service to older adults and their caregivers in addition to offering community education on the signs of elder abuse and how to report it. CEASSE has educated more than 1,300 professionals and community members on elder abuse and justice issues, Mr. Jacob said. It has established 50 community partners that have served more than 150 clients and caregivers with mental health services. CEASSE has provided more than 2,000 hours of home care services, he added.
“We provide these presentations and education,” Mr. Jacob said. “We believe in raising awareness. If you see something, then you’re able to say something, and know where to go. We create a means of connecting individuals to our services or enabling them to make referrals when they identify forms of abuse.”
When such abuse is discovered and a referral is made from the community, JFS provides the case management, mental health services, and connections to other services, Mr. Jacob said. JFS offers nursing, home health aides, Meals on Wheels, transportation to medical appointments and other programs.
“Elder abuse happens everywhere, no matter your class, race, or ethnicity,” Mr. Jacob said. “So it is vital for our communities to be able to identify when it’s happening. The symptoms could be bruise marks on an older individual or reports from them that they are being treated unfairly.
“There may be signs of financial abuse if they’re able to pay their rent or the utilities on time, but all of a sudden they start falling behind. These are the red flags to look out for. It’s important to ask questions or make a referral to our agency so we can provide the support that’s needed.”
For more information about Project CEASSE, email Peter Jacob at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (908) 352-8375.