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Vilas County first responders and adult services work together in pilot program aimed at stopping elder abuse


Abuse can happen to anyone, no matter their age.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of adults over the age of 60 are abused, neglected, or financially exploited.

Neglect is the most common type of abuse Donna Rosner sees. She’s worked as a Certified Adult Protective Services Social Worker in Vilas County for more than 30 years.

Neglect isn’t always a caretaker failing to provide the needs of the person. Rosner says self-neglect is what’s seen most often in Wisconsin.

“That might be someone developing signs of dementia, they’re driving getting lost, driving running out of gas. All the sudden they’re at the western part of the state cause they’re still driving and have lost their skills for orientation due to the level of their dementia,” said Rosner.

Financial exploitation is also a common form of elder abuse seen in the state.

Depending on the type of abuse, it can be hard for someone to recognize that it’s happening or know how best to address it.

That’s where a pilot project is coming into play.

Vilas County is one of five selected by the Wisconsin Department of Justice and UW Green Bay.

“Our at-risk numbers are high due to our high elderly population,” said Rosner.

Through the pilot program Rosner is training first responders in the county on how to recognize signs of elder abuse and get them the help they need.

Wednesday was the first of four training sessions being offered in the county. First responders only need to attend one.

The next three will be held over the next two weeks in various communities in Vilas County.

Rosner says the most important part of the training is just starting a conversation between EMS and her office.

“The main goal of this is so EMS feels comfortable reaching out to us, anyone that is concerned about an elder or adult at risk that’s being neglected, exploited, they should feel comfortable reaching out to us,” she said.

People who report elder abuse remain anonymous. In Vilas County you can all adult services at 715-479-3668.

While there’s only five counties participating in the training program right now, it will eventually be in all 72 Wisconsin Counties.