“Improving Resources and Enhancing Lives” Door County, Wisconsin

By Kim Kramer, BSW, Erin Szakala, MSW and Carol Lenius, BS

We live in an area of the country that has some unique barriers to combatting abuse. The following is from our Aging and Disability Resource Center’s aging plan written by an advisory board member by the name of Tom Kreuck.

“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Door County’s population is 27,976. From an economic perspective, Door County relies heavily on the recreational, tourism-based sector. There is a large agricultural dimension and a small, but significant manufacturing segment. The population of Door County reflects a strong Scandinavian and Belgian influence. Added to the above-noted factors, servicing the aged population must take into account seasonal variance. From Memorial Day to Labor Day the sheer number of people within the county can place greater pressure on services. Conversely, the long winter months increase isolation and mobility.”

Door County’s widely held attractiveness has drawn a very diverse population reflecting both the arts and those seeking a retirement setting. There are many who have part-time residences desiring a warmer setting from November to April.

According to statewide data, 21.9% of residents in 2015 were over 60 years of age. This proportion is expected to reach 28.5% by 2035. However, Door County’s makeup of those over 60 is going from 36.1% to 45.1%. This is a 25 percent increase with respect to those in the target group to be served. The gender distribution has females outnumbering males by more than 20 percent.

The reality of over one-third of Door County residents eligible for some level of service trending up to a proportion nearing one-half within two decades means this plan must begin to prepare for the future.

Given our experience over the past three years and the above information about the demographics of Door County, a critical issue is the rapid growth of our aging population. We will have an increased need for services that don’t currently exist at a capacity to meet the increased demands. Door County has also seen a continuing trend of increased elder abuse referrals. These current trends are confronted with the clear issue of financial county support at a time when increasing demands are being placed on limited resources.

For more detailed information see the full aging plan.

Throughout the years, our Adult Protective Services Unit coordinates several events to address Elder Abuse.   We have articles in our monthly newsletter at the Senior Center on a variety of issues related to Elder Abuse.  This newsletter can be accessed via our website (scroll down to Quick Links “link for Sr. Citizens, Persons with Disabilities and Caregivers” box).

We believe strongly and rely heavily on our Interdisciplinary Team (I-team). Since its inception, we do the following:

*staff tackle difficult, challenging cases using the Star Method; for more information visit here,

*intervene with a more trauma-informed approach with a concentration on self-care under the guidance and support of our secondary traumatic stress county workgroup.  Currently, we are reading “Trauma Stewardship an Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others” by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky.  See this link for more information,

*plan outreach activities, and

*plan educational event/speakers/community conversations.

Through this group of very dedicated professionals, including our assistant corporation counsel, sheriff’s department, police department, domestic violence advocates, ADRC Information and Assistance Specialists, our local hospital, Ombudsman, public health nurses and paramedics, we consult and collaborate to maximize the opportunity for safety, independence and quality of life.  This group is committed to making a difference in the lives of older persons in our county.

At our Senior Center we host quarterly medication collection events, we have presentations on scams, healthy relationships, recognizing the signs of elder abuse and are constantly educating on the importance of reporting.  We are fortunate to have a chef that cooks an attractive meal to draw a larger crowd on these special event days. The meal usually includes pork chops, chicken and believe it or not, our best crowds come in for the liver and onions.

We also hold a regular event called “Shred Fest” that allowed elders to bring in important documents that we dispose of through our county’s Confidential Materials Destruction service again prevention mode to help prevent identity theft.

Over the last few years, we have also collaborated with other community partners such as our local hospital, Door County Medical Center  and PFLAG of Door County and hosted the screening of a documentary by Stu Maddox on LGBT elders and issues they struggle with while aging.  We had a great turn out and had a wonderful discussion afterward.

It goes without saying that we are extremely proud of our World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Pinwheel attraction.   We literally flood the lawn outside our Senior Center with pinwheels.  These pinwheels represent the number of incidents of Elder Abuse that are reported to us in the previous year. This year we’ll be putting 247 pinwheels in the ground.  People driving by will just stop and inquire about the pinwheels and again we get another opportunity to educate on the issues of Elder Abuse and tell others that yes Elder Abuse exists, even in beautiful Door County.

We create display boards and dinner placemats that we use at our different meal sites throughout the county.  We also attend health fairs, as well as other community events with our displays and handouts. This too helps us to educate more people about Elder Abuse.

Some of our goals for this year will include repeating the events that were mentioned previously as well as working on the second edition of a calendar that we created several years ago called “Your Future Matters”.  Each month, we honored a senior with a photo and a short bio asking for their sage advice about growing older.  In general, the calendar is geared towards Elder Abuse prevention so we really don’t plan on reinventing the wheel just highlighting different seniors.

In closing, our hope is that with every one of these activities that we create an environment that fosters respect for elders, a culture that is understanding of their issues and somehow makes a difference in the elders in our community. We remain dedicated and passionate about our work on behalf of vulnerable elders and cherish our successes.


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Special Thanks to Judith D. Tamkin

We are sincerely appreciative to Judith D. Tamkin for her gift to help establish the USC Center on Elder Mistreatment’s website. Her deep and personal commitment to eradicating elder abuse is helping to reshape our understanding of elder abuse and ultimately save innumerable older adults from abuse and neglect.