By Isabella Navarrette
DAVIS, CA – The Senior Citizen Commission gathered on May 11, joined by speaker Paul Doroshov from the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office, to discuss cases of elder abuse in the community, and deliberate on ways to extend resources and education to the public.
The conversation began with a brief statistical overview of the elder abuse cases charged in Davis by the Yolo District Attorney’s Office from the years 2019 and 2023. All of the cases were alleged physical abuse, Dorshov noted, making the distinction that “there were no financial cases charged” and “no neglect cases charged.”
In this timeframe, there were ten charged cases of elder abuse, and one homicide (a total of eleven cases for the dataset). It is important to note as well that the homicide was not included as a charged case, as the suspect was killed during the incident.
In these cases, nine out of eleven were reported to the police by the victim, one was reported by a family member, and another was reported by a facility member (reporting another employee). As for the perpetrators, eight out of eleven cases were committed by a suspect known by the victim/family member, one out of the eleven cases was committed by a caretaker at a facility, and two out of the eleven were committed by strangers (one road rage incident, and one random attack on the street).
From these statistics, Doroshov notes that most of these abuse cases are “committed by someone that’s close to them,” at least for the physical abuse aspects.
As for solutions, Doroshov urges that in cases of physical abuse, it is important to “teach people how to report.” But for instances of financial abuse or negligence that are often difficult to define or even prove, it’s best to “raise awareness” and “educate people about the resources.”
Doroshov then introduced elder abuse advocate, Jessica Davis, who brought light to a pattern of underreporting with elders who are “afraid to change the situation they’re in,” especially given the dynamics of a situation involving family members.
Davis also offers a “money smart” resource guide for older adults from the FDIC, which acts as “a breakdown of general scams and fraud” that may impact the elder community.
The conversation was then interrupted by Commissioner Thomas Hoeber, who reiterated the issue of underreporting. Doroshov responded by urging the community to educate others on how to report and acknowledge abuse early.
In response, commissioner Leilani Buddenhagen reframed the issue, claiming that the focus should be prevention and wanting “to prevent people from harm—from being harmed.” To this, Davis admitted that at the District Attorney’s Office, they “don’t have any preventative” measures, and it is often difficult because many of the abuse cases happen when the elderly “are vulnerable…and isolate.”
In brainstorming solutions, Doroshov asked the commission if it would be more beneficial it there was an “outreach of education more from not a law enforcement standpoint…but more through like senior center, or those kinds of tools,” touching again on the dynamics of familial abuse and resources to help the affected elder community.
Commissioner Elizabeth Lasensky added that part of the difficulty, for some, may be defining these abuse situations and that these resources should highlight “some real solid guideposts” that the community can look out for.
Commissioner Carol Galvin likened this effort to when physicians ask her at appointments “am I safe where I live?” She suggested that this practice should be extended to Yolo County as well, as a measure to address elder abuse—to which Davis echoed the importance of “reaching out to somebody that works at a hospital” or “at domestic violence agencies.”
Alongside educating the elderly population, Doroshov stated that “from a standpoint of prevention” it is “important to educate family members” as well. This idea was then summarized by Commissioner Leilani Buddenhagen, who stated that prevention can come from “the mechanisms of the matrix of social services agencies” as abuse situations can often be incredibly “complex, personal, loaded.”
The conversation was closed off with a big-picture question, in which Buddenhagen called attention to the sense that “this is a systemic problem”, to which Doroshov responded that the topic simply “requires more study.”