How One Agency Works to Solve Elder Abuse, with Sheila Dessau of WRAAA


Aging is difficult enough. With old age and declining health, even the most routine tasks become major chores. This is why so many enlist the help of loved ones or assisted living communities as they enter old age. When elder abuse or exploitation occurs, which is more frequent than many might imagine, the repercussions are damning.

Sheila Dessau, Senior Director of Clinical Services for the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging (WRAAA) is familiar with the pain associated with elder abuse and is seeking to end it in her region.

Dessau reports that 17,579 accounts of abuse, exploitation, and neglect have been reported since July of 2017 to WRAAA’s county department of Jobs and Family Services in the greater Cleveland area.

The dissolution of trust in the family leaves many seniors with nowhere to turn. That is why agencies like WRAAA are so critical.

The WRAAA empowers the community and intensifies its reach through education. It educates its staff and members of the community like lawyers, social workers, judges, attorneys, and family members about how to notice and report signs of abuse in an elder’s life and home with annual consortiums and handy bookmark reminders.

“Nothing beats the personal touch of someone in the home,” Dessau said.

WRAAA works closely with the county protective services department to enhance the reach of their service. They also integrate technology like emergency buttons to give elders an extra step of safety. With education, technology, community outreach, and a dedicated staff, the WRAAA has been working tirelessly to empower Ohio-area elders with the tools to take care of themselves and resist situations of abuse.

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