DPSS News July 2020



DELIVERING MESSAGE S o c i a l w a t c h d o g s a r e needed, now more than eve r, t o he l p p r o t ec t vulnerable seniors and dependent adults from financial scams, abuse and neglect during the coronavirus pandemic, say advocates for the aging and disabled. “We are experiencing a time of

W hen Adult Services social worker Gaby Reyes struggled to get an uncooperative homeless woman off Lake Elsinore streets and into a safe environment, she turned to a team of Riverside County agencies for help. “This woman was in her 80s, and had been homeless for more than 20 years,” Reyes said. “She resisted any help from me. I knew I needed multiple partners to step in.” Reyes turned for help to a newly formed team of medical, behavioral health, social services, law enforcement, and housing authority professionals. The homeless multidisciplinary team launched in 2018. It’s coordinated by the Curtailing Abuse Related to the Elderly (C.A.R.E.) Team and its members collaborate to solve complex issues around homelessness. Reyes’ case was one of the team’s first. Since then, the C.A.R.E. Team has successfully managed more than 100 high- risk homeless cases. The National Association of Counties has recognized the team’s success with a 2020 Achievement Award for improving county services. Partners such as Riverside University Health System-Behavioral Health, the Sheriff’s Department and community-based organizations play important roles. The team connected the homeless senior with the Riverside County Public Guardian who placed her in a conservatorship to manage her finances and get her into stable housing. “Everyone knew this woman, her history and family dynamics,” Reyes said. “She was able to get wrap-around services such as food and cash assistance and room and board. Seeing her excitement was so rewarding. I was not working alone.” Cooperation on the C.A.R.E. Team allows it to meet the needs of high-risk seniors and dependent adults who frequently fall between the cracks of government safety nets, said Todd Bellanca, program director of Riverside County Adult Services. “We are able to effectively close gaps in services by working together to strengthen that safety net,” Bellanca said. Reyes is proud of the collaboration of the C.A.R.E. Team and the positive impact its work has had on the community. “They’ve helped people involved in my cases, and so many others,” she said. The Homeless Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) meets in Riverside in January 2020 to discuss complex cases involving homeless adults.

Dr. Stacey Wood

increased social distancing and isolation,” warned Dr. Stacey Wood, a nat ional exper t in forensic neuropsychology and geriatric psychology. “And, isolation is a potent factor for all kinds of abuse,” Wood was speaking to more than 300 advocates for the aging who attended the webinar “Isolation and Loneliness: Precursor to Elder Abuse & Exploitation.” The webinar was hosted by Riverside County Adult Services Division to align with National Elder Abuse Prevention Month in June. Attendees said the webinar was excellent, easy to understand and that it offered practical tools that were easy to apply. Some said the topic was especially timely. “Considering the unprecedented situation we are facing, I am glad we had this webinar,” wrote one participant. “The tremendous participation we saw speaks to the relevance of the topic and the interest we all share in protecting vulnerable adults from neglect and abuse in any of its forms,” said DPSS Regional Manager Julie Orozco, one of the webinar’s organizers. “This means strengthening the social safety net around them.” “Our seniors are valued members of society and our communities,” Orozco added. “Pandemic or no pandemic, we are committed to fostering an inclusive culture that recognizes the value of our seniors and protects them from harm and neglect.” Help protect elder and dependent adults by calling 1-800-491-7123 to report suspected abuse including: Phys i cal abuse, sexual abuse, sel f -neglect , abandonment, financial abuse, psychological abuse and neglect by others.



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