I recently had a conversation with a young man who told me about the recent ordeal involving his 84-year-old father. His father lives independently and is able to take fairly good care of himself. He received a call from his father. This call encouraged him to visit his father. He noticed that there was a plumbing issue in the apartment and that one of his wrists was swollen. He questioned his father about his wrist and his father told him that he fell on the bus. The young man asked him to if he reported it to the transit company and he replied that he did not want to pursue it because it was his fault.
The young man then proceeded to question him about the plumbing issue. His father replied that the maintenance worker told him that he had to order a part. The maintenance worker then proceeded to go into the kitchen, take out some chicken and proceeded to prepare himself lunch. His father said that this was, in fact, a regular occurrence. He also mentioned that he once overheard a conversation outside his apartment door between the maintenance worker and his neighbor. The neighbor was questioning the maintenance worker about why he is bothering the young man’s father. After the conversation,the maintenance worker knocked on his door and proceeded to go into the kitchen and prepare food.
He asked his father if he reported it to the building superintendent and his father replied yes. Of course, the young man was very concerned, placed a call to the superintendent. Later that day, the superintendent returned the call and her tone was one of indignation. She was offended that she was questioned about the maintenance worker and said that she would never hire anyone that would treat her tenants that way. She then proceeded to imply that his father may possibly suffer from dementia, changed the subject and mentioned that his apartment did not pass the recent inspection.
The young man informed the superintendent that he’s a private detective who had experience investigating elder abuse allegations and told the superintendent that she was trying to make the maintenance worker the victim and discount his father’s complaint. Later that afternoon, the superintendent called back apologetic and informed him plumbing issue was resolved and she would investigate the matter regarding the habitual violation of his father’s apartment.
This is just an example of how many seniors are treated on a regular basis when living alone without having regular visits from their relatives or friends. You will also note that the young man’s father did not pursue the issue because he felt ignored.
Many asked why seniors and others who witness elder abuse are not filing complaints. The Clark County Prosecutor’s Office in Indiana listed these reasons:
- they are afraid of retaliation,
- they think they will be put in an institution,
- they are ashamed that a family member mistreated them,
- they think that the police and social agencies cannot really help them, or
- they think that no one will believe them.
Other reasons are:
- a lack of community and professional awareness about the problem
- a lack of identification of certain situations as constituting elder abuse, for example, where no physical violence is being experienced
- people may not know who will be able to help them—who do they report it to and what will they do?
- victims of elder abuse tend to be quite isolated, which means that they may not be able to access assistance and that the abuse continues in the absence of the scrutiny of others
- older people and professionals may be afraid that the consequences of reporting the abuse will place the victim in a worse position than they are currently in, such as being institutionalized
- older people may be ashamed that they are being abused by people they should be able to trust, such as close family members,64 they may not want to jeopardize important relationships with family or friends, or may fear retaliation from their abuser
- health professionals may lack protocols and procedures for addressing abuse.
I have spoken to several attorneys who told me about cases where the evidence was clear regarding abuse, the authorities did not pursue them because they did not want to do the leg work. There have been situations where families had to hire private detectives to investigate allegations because of the lack of support from local authorities. Having said this, this mostly occurs in areas with limited resources. This, however, is inexcusable.
John Wasik, who writes columns on investments and financial planning, mentioned on Forbes.com that in the over ten years that he has been reporting financial elder abuse, little has been done to curb scams. He mentioned that his own relative was a victim of an investment scam.
The good news Wasik says is that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has taking a leading role in protecting our seniors from scams from brokers and bankers.
If you want to report elder abuse, you should contact the elder abuse hotline at 1-866-809-1409. When calling, you should be prepared to provide:
- The alleged victim’s name, address, telephone number, sex, age and general condition;
- The alleged abuser’s name, sex, age, relationship to victim and condition;
- The circumstances which lead the reporter to believe that the older person is being abused, neglected or financially exploited, with as much specificity as possible;
- Whether the alleged victim is in immediate danger, the best time to contact the person, if he or she knows of the report, and if there is any danger to the worker going out to investigate;
- Whether the reporter believes the client could make a report themselves;
- The name, telephone number and profession of the reporter;
- The names of others with information about the situation;
- If the reporter is willing to be contacted again; and,
- Any other relevant information.
I encourage everyone to please contact them if you suspect any form of elder abuse. I also encourage families and friends to make regular visits to your loved ones’ homes and nursing homes. When someone sees that the senior has no one showing concern, he/she can easily become a target.
Please feel free to leave comments or ask questions.