October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Raising awareness to prevent substance use disorder and domestic violence is crucial as numbers are on the rise. Both can drastically alter a household and threaten the health, safety and well-being of everyone in the home.

 When parents with substance use disorder are unable to care for their children, grandparents often step up to keep the family together and provide a sense of security. The number of grandparents raising grandchildren continues to increase.

In 2017, the opioid epidemic was declared a public health emergency. Across the nation, more than 2.7 million grandparents are raising grandchildren. Essentially, grandparents who may need care themselves, have become the caregivers. No matter how much grandparents love their grandchildren, taking them into their home requires many adjustments. Grandparents become responsible for daily care along with homework, sports, recreational activities and other commitments. It can be incredibly challenging to these older adults as they may also be struggling with their own health, mobility, financial and/or other issues.

Another household crisis is domestic violence; this can affect anyone regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. Domestic violence is perpetrated by a current or former intimate partner and involves behavior meant to control, scare or harm. It often occurs in the home and can include emotional abuse as well as psychological, physical, and/or sexual violence. Domestic violence may emerge when a current or former partner struggles with substance use disorder. Intimidation, verbal abuse and accusations, financial abuse, social isolation, shoving, hitting, kicking, stalking and cyber-stalking are only a few examples of domestic violence. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), in the U.S., an average of 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner.

Supporting & Protecting Older Adults

As a nonprofit agency serving older adults, individuals with disabilities and caregivers throughout Plymouth County and surrounding towns, Old Colony Elder Services (OCES) provides services and programs to both support and protect older adults.

OCES’ Family Caregiver Support Program is designed to assist and support those who are providing care to older adults, but the program also helps grandparents raising grandchildren. Recognizing that each caregiver’s situation is unique and complex, OCES provides resources through OCES programs and other resources in the community to help with caregiving. OCES provides one-on-one support to grandparents and creates a personalized plan outlining available resources appropriate to each caregiving situation. This may include help with respite, summer camperships, technology and more. Other resources for grandparents may include caregiver support groups as well as educational workshops or programs that share techniques to help family caregivers with stress reduction, time management, goal setting, problem-solving, relaxation and more.

Older adults who are at risk of harm from others can receive assistance to keep them safe in their own homes. OCES’ Protective Services staff can advocate for older adults in abusive situations and provide resources to resolve these difficult matters. OCES’ Protective Services team works confidentially with older adults or their designees to prevent, eliminate or remedy situations involving emotional, physical or sexual abuse, neglect by a caregiver, financial exploitation and/or self–neglect.

Help OCES raise awareness of elder abuse and domestic violence. If you see something, say something. The signs of elder abuse and domestic violence are not always obvious and can be difficult to recognize. Visit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) website at www.ncadv.org for comprehensive information.

If you have a Protective Services concern, call the Massachusetts-based Elder Abuse Hotline (centralized intake) at 1-800-922-2275.

For more information about OCES’ Family Caregiver Support Program, call 508-584-1561.


Anderson, L. (2019, April 22). States with High Opioid Prescribing Rates Have Higher Rates of Grandparents Responsible for Grandchildren. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/04/opioid-crisis-grandparents-raising-grandchildren.html