BY SHERI TRUSTY
Representatives from several local organizations and members of the public came together last Thursday, Sept. 15 at Camp Perry in Port Clinton to address the needs of one of the community’s most vulnerable populations: The elderly. The 2022 Summit on Aging, hosted by the Ottawa County Task Force on Aging, brought to light concerns and resources on the local, state and federal level with a focus on elderly scams and fraud.
The event’s speakers represented a number of government agencies, including the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission, and the United States Attorney’s Office.
Local speakers included Ottawa County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Frederick C. Hany II, Ottawa County Clerk of Courts John Klaehn, Ottawa County Recorder Nate Daniels and Adult Protective Services Caseworker Julie McKitrick.
The speakers and the audience had one goal. To protect the county’s senior population.
Much of the information presented at the summit was designed to help seniors and their families be proactive against scams and fraud. The county speakers helped the audience understand and navigate through important practical steps involving guardianship, wills, deeds and financial protections.
McKitrick discussed the process of opening an adult protective services case and explained the unique obstacles her agency faces while trying to protect vulnerable older adults.
“The biggest challenge is finding balance between self-determination and harm,” she said.
In Ottawa County, McKitrick said the majority of the cases her agency addressed between 2016 and 2021 related to self-neglect, while the second biggest problem was neglect of a senior by those that care for them.
“We provide services and protection to individuals who are unable to protect themselves or have no one to help them,” McKitrick said. “We want to maximize self-dependence.”
McKitrick’s talk inspired an audience discussion about the changes that COVID-19 brought to the industry’s efforts to protect the elderly.
“Our new normal means we are looking at services in a different way,” said Amy Simkus, a social worker and task force member. “There are barriers to some services which changes the dynamics of family caregiver situations.”
The senior population can, by nature, become easily isolated, and COVID-19 concerns have isolated some seniors even further, making it more difficult to connect them with much-needed resources.
“It’s a moving target,” said Ottawa County Health Department Health Educator Michelle Veliz. “We’re trying to take steps to meet the public where they are.”
Dianne Martin Mortensen, Director of Ottawa County Senior Resources and a member of the task force, said it is important that the various agencies in the room work together to help overcome the obstacles. The obstacles may have changed, but the needs have not.
“COVID or no COVID, the elderly’s needs are real and immediate,” Hany said.