Elder abuse and neglect addressed at conference

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IRVINGTON, NJ — The Not on My Watch: Elder Abuse and Neglect Conference, sponsored by the Irvington Health Department, took place at the Irvington Senior Citizens Community Center on Friday, Oct. 18. With breakfast and registration beginning at 9:15 a.m., local seniors were welcomed with a variety of options for breakfast and the forum drew a large turnout.

Gloria Chison, manager of the Irvington Senior Citizens Community Center, welcomed seniors to the forum.

“Today, we are having a conference on elder abuse and we have several speakers,” Chison told the Irvington Herald during the event. “We have a gerontologist, Dr. (Theresa) Redling; we have Louis Layton, who’s an adjunct professor at Essex County College; we have Janell Bell, who’s the director of protective services; and we have Chenelle Dudley, who is a behavioral health supervisor at East Orange General Hospital. We have about 80 or 90 people here in the room.”

Chison said the conference was held to raise awareness in Irvington of abuse.

“We thought bringing this conference to Irvington would bring awareness to elder abuse because, when you work with seniors and you work in the senior community, you see things but you don’t really understand,” Chison said. “So, if we bring all these people that take care of seniors, working in the senior community and nursing homes, we can get a reality check on how it really is to learn the telltale signs. So that’s why we put this together.”

Elder abuse “is very important to our elders and our seniors and to the community,” Barbara Bennette, secretary for the Irvington Coalition at the Senior Citizens Community Center, said at the event. “We’re giving information. We have a lot of speakers that are here, presenting information and getting information out to the community. A lot of the people do not know that a lot of the elder people tend to keep things to themselves, which would encourage the elderly to come out and speak on this topic, because there is protection for them.”

As a guest speaker at the conference, Dr. Redling, who is the director of geriatric health and disease management at St. Barnabas Medical Center, gave extensive insight into abuse.

“I’m here to educate individuals on identifying abuse and educating people on what kind of interventions are available to prevent and treat abuse,” Redling said at the event. “I think it’s incredible how all of these individuals have come together for such an important event. The turnout was awesome and all of the administrators and state administrators that came out here was really incredible.”

“I think, as the population ages, this topic is even more relevant that there’s more and more seniors that will need to be protected and particularly financial abuse, which is more and more a problem with scamming individuals, due to the social media and access to personal information.” Redling added.

Bell, who serves as director for Essex County Adult Protective Services, and another guest speaker, said at the conference, “I think it’s a necessary event and I think it’s an important event, because we need to shed light on the abuse, the neglect and the financial exploitation that has taken place within the township of Irvington and in a county in which we reside, which is Essex County.”

“I think today’s event was amazing,” said Dudley, a guest speaker who is the program manager for the Ambulatory Behavioral Health Services at East Orange General Hospital. “It was an event that needs to happen. It’s definitely bringing awareness to the epidemic that we have going on in this country and letting people know the signs, the symptoms, what to do, where to go and that there are resources out there.”

Louise Layton, adjunct professor at Essex County College and another speaker at the conference, brought in a video, called “An Age for Justice,” to set the tone and educate the senior community in attendance.

“I’m a senior advocate and educator and I’m very passionate about elder abuse,” Layton said to the Irvington Herald after the event. “Part of my training and information is about sending information to the community, I bring in a particular video because, sometimes, I find that people are much more visual, and it’s called ‘An Age for Justice’ and it tells about what, unfortunately, has happened, depending on whose eyes you’re looking through. Every time the video has been shown, someone will come up and say ‘Can I speak to you in private’ and that’s how I learned that we just need to advocate more about this and, hopefully, become better educated on elder abuse and, as people age in the community, start looking out for their neighbors.”

“Today’s event was great,” Layton said. “I’m very pleased that people want information. Right now, at Essex County College, I teach an aging course, social gerontology, and periodically, I teach a sociology course. It’s no secret, I love health and aging. But I’m very concerned about how people age successfully in their community and whatever we can do to make it much more successful. But what I would like to see is New Jersey do much better when it comes to elder abuse and I think we can do a lot more.”

“What an amazing event,” Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss said in a statement to the Irvington Herald on Monday, Oct. 21. “Everyone was excited, because our elderly mean so much to us in this community. This is just the first of many events in support of our elderly and the township was happy to partner with other organizations that see the need for addressing elderly abuse.”

“I think the event was awesome,” said East Ward Councilman Paul Inman to the Irvington Herald. “Kudos to our Health Department for putting on such a great event with our presenters who presented the information. It was great information. I’m glad that we were able to educate our folks. This topic hit home for me.”

“This was another reason why I came, because my mother was physically abused at the hands of the nursing facility and we wanted to come and just observe the information that they were giving out so, that way, we can maybe duplicate the same information in our ward,” Inman added. “To educate folks and let them know not only do we have to worry about some family members abusing our seniors, but we also have to check on our seniors when we put them in these nursing facilities and ensure that they’re OK there as well.”

Photos by EmilyAnn Jackman