Elder abuse is any form of mistreatment that results in harm or loss to an older person and refers to intentional or neglectful acts by a caregiver or “trusted” individual that may lead to harmful outcomes. 

   Baltimore County Health Officer Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch talked about the importance of not being MEAN (Mistreat, Exploit, Abandon, Neglect) to our vulnerable elders, but instead the importance of being NICE (Nurturing, Integrity, Compassion, Empathy). 

   “We all know that abuse comes in various forms, but some people resort to being downright MEAN to the elderly,” said Dr. Branch who also serves as Director for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “Preventing and reporting elder abuse is everyone’s responsibility.”

   HHS promotes health and prevents disease through education, advocacy, linkage to resources, and treatment to improve the quality of life for Baltimore County residents. 

   “We all must keep our eyes and ears open to see what we see and don’t see and to hear what we hear and don’t hear,” said Dr. Branch. “Each of us has a responsibility to report suspected abuse.”

   According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), elder abuse is a silent problem that robs seniors of their dignity, security, and in some cases, their lives. The mission of NCOA is to improve the lives of older adults and to impact the health and economic security of 40 million older adults by 2030, particularly in underserved communities. 

   Signs of elder abuse include: depression; confusion; withdrawal; isolation from family and friends; unexplained bruises; burns or scars; malnourishment; bed sores; poor medical care; and changes in banking or spending patterns.

   According to the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, which enforces the state’s antitrust, consumer protection and securities laws, one in five seniors over age 65 have been the victims of fraud. The Maryland Office of the Attorney General estimates seniors are losing a staggering $2.9 billion a year to identity thieves and con artists. 

   Dr. Branch said that studies show that for every one case of elder abuse that is reported to authorities, 24 cases go undetected or unreported. 

   “We work with our sister agencies to try to ensure the health and safety of our elderly Baltimore County residents,” said Dr. Branch. “We stand on the shoulders of our elders. Yet, there are those who abuse and exploit our older citizens.” 

   Individuals who suspect abuse or neglect should call our Baltimore County Department of Social Services’ Information, Referral and Screening number at 410-887-TIME (8463). Experienced screeners take information needed to assess each situation and determine the appropriate course of action. 

   In addition, County residents who are homeless (or in danger of becoming homeless) can call 410-887-8463 to receive a shelter needs assessment, referral to available resources, and/or information about available homeless shelter beds in Baltimore County.

   “The Baltimore County Department of Social Services stands ready to help those in our community that are vulnerable,” said Dr. Branch. “We are our brothers’ keeper and have a responsibility to say something when we suspect someone is at risk of abuse or neglect. The TIME is always right to make the call.” 

   For more information about these and other resources offered by HHS, visit https://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/departments/health/. To learn more about the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division including how to protect yourself, to report fraud or abuse, and other resources, visit www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/Pages/seniors.aspx  


Ursula V. Battle
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