WHEN THE ELDERLY CANNOT RECEIVE JUSTICE IN THE COURT SYSTEM

When one discovers that a loved one has been a victim of elder abuse, it breaks one’s heart and justice for that loved one becomes a priority.  What if you are a retired Los Angeles Police Captain, who co-founded the Elder Abuse Unit and was commanding officer of the Financial Crimes Division?  This is the story of retired LA Police Captain Glenn R. Ackerman.

He  discovered that his 82-year-old mother’s life savings, roughly about $150,000, had been stolen by a relative. My mother, Jonnye Ketchum, was left penniless, except for a $900 per month pension.  Her home, in Camarillo, California, was fully paid for.

He filed an elder abuse crime report with the Camarillo station of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, naming the relative as the suspect. The detective assigned to the case had no prior experience handling an elder abuse case and literally had no idea how to proceed.  Because of his background, he was able to provide assistance and brought in two expert detectives from his former unit to assist in the investigation.

Their tests and interviews of Mrs. Ketchum revealed that she was suffering from significant mental impairment and that the suspect had obtained her savings through an ongoing pattern of threats and browbeating; even as the investigation was being conducted, there was evidence that the suspect was helping herself to the bulk of Mrs. Ketchum’s pension. The suspect admitted to receiving large sums of money from Mrs. Ketchum, claiming that they were “gifts” and “loans.”

When the case was submitted to the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office for filing, it was rejected on the basis of a seemingly willful failure to understand the fundamental elder abuse concepts of diminished capacity and undue influence. In effect, Mrs. Ketchum was deemed competent to do whatever she wanted with her money (This is a common occurrence across the country in many District Attorney’s offices).

He realized, as a result of his experience and instincts, that the relative would probably go after the house.  He was right!  His mother called him explaining that the relative, using a power of attorney that she had coerced his mother into signing, was selling his mother’s house out from under her; his mother told him she loved her home and begged him to stop her from selling it.

He immediately filed an elder abuse crime report and retained an attorney. This matter lasted for several years.  The relative managed to have herself appointed conservator over his mother in order to sell the home because of her refusal.

When Captain Ackerman and his attorney found out about the home, it was already in escrow and they were unable to stop the sale.  The judge, however, did block the wire transfer of funds.  The funds were transferred to an account in Nevada. It was later revealed that the relative was a convicted felon.

The attorney and the detectives managed to collect evidence, medical and financial, clearly showing the relative’s guilt.  In court, the relative’s attorneys were able to convince the judge that the allegation were false.

The Ventura District Attorney’s office still rejected the case and the probate court judge’s final words were as follows, “But Mr. Hankin (Ackerman’s attorney), parents give their grown children large sums of money all the time. That doesn’t constitute a crime.”

Captain Ackerman’s story is tragic but true for many families who have tried to receive justice for their loved ones.  In fact, he said he felt that “it was as if, having saved what remained of Mrs. Ketchum’s estate and appointed an honest conservator, the courts decided that their responsibility had ended; no need to trouble themselves further.

As I always mention, please report all incidents to the proper authorities.  You can also find information on the National Center on Elder Abuse’s website at http://www.ncea.aoa.gov.

Please feel free to leave your questions or comments.

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ELDER ABUSE IN INDIA

Last month, HelpAge India released some startling news.  On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, HelpAge India released their findings. More than half (51%) of the elderly in Odisha have experienced abuse by their family members with daughters-in-law and sons emerging as major abusers. Odisha is the 9th largest state by area in India, and the 11th largest by population.

Bihar is a state in northern India.  It is the 12th largest state in terms of geographical size and 3rd largest by population.  In Bihar, daughters-in-law have been reported as the main perpetrator of abuse of the elders at home while it is the son who is the main abuser. Also, the study found that 17% faced abuse at the hands of their own daughters. Here are some other key findings:

  • Sixty-one of all the interviewed elderly people confessed they were humiliated for minor reasons by family members.
  • Thirty-two accepted that they were frequently subjected to verbal abuse at their own house.
  • Four of them admitted being assaulted by their own sons and daughters-in-law.
  • Twenty said they were frequently subjected to rude behavior and humiliation at their homes.
  • The main reason turned out to be the intention to usurp their property, their ill-health and perception of the elderly as burden on family finances.
  • Verbal abuse (observed as the main form of abuse) constituted 73% while physical abuse marked 27% and 34% reported disrespect and neglect.
  • The main perpetrator was the son in 39% of the cases followed by the daughter-in-law in 35% of the cases reported.
  • Seventy-four percent of the elders did not report the abuse they face citing maintaining confidentiality of the family matter as the major reason, followed by lack of confidence in the person or agency.

The disturbing fact that while 97% of the people polled knew about the consequences for abusing the elderly because the new laws in place protecting the elderly, only 32% made attempts to file reports.

HelpAge India has launched the Help Unite Generations (HUG) campaign. The goal is to educate young children and adults on issues relating to the elderly.  HelpAge India is hoping to encourage the young to spend time with the elderly, find an elder friend and enrich both their own and the elder’s life.

This is a reminder that elder abuse is a global social and health issue.

As I always mention, please report any incidents of elder abuse to your local authorities. The website for the National Center on Elder Abuse is http://www.ncea.aoa.gov.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions.

ELDER ABUSE IN THE ALASKA NATIVE AND NATIVE AMERICAN COMMUNITIES

Many of us have seen images of Alaskan Natives and Native Americans. Those images shows the respect and the high regard the elders in the groups held. Younger members of the tribe looked and sought the elders’ guidance.

Unfortunately, times have changed. It is estimated that at least 16% of the projected Alaska Native population of over 140,000 people will be 65 or older. Aging among all Alaskans is becoming a public health issue, and the costs involved in caring for them is rapidly emerging as an important health and public policy issue.

Alaska has been working on raising awareness of elder abuse. According to reports by the National Indian Council on Aging and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, it can be expected that the prevalence rate for elder abuse can range between 5,600 and 8,400 cases. The problem of elder abuse among Alaska Natives and American Indians has received increasing recognition.  Many feel that the problem is a result of alcohol and substance abuse and cultural changes. Researchers have felt that federal government’s policies has destroyed the traditional family values of these indigenous people, forcing to assimilate and abandon their native tongue, religion and culture.

Early Alaskan history shows the Alaskan Natives’ children being sent away to boarding schools hundreds of miles away from their parents. These children were forced to adopt western values, contrary to their upbringing.

It is dangerous to force people to abandon their culture. Culture is the glue that holds communities together.

The family unit is the foundation for all of us.  The father of life coaching, Thomas Leonard stated it aptly when he said that “environment will always win.”

As I always mention, please report any incidents of elder abuse to your local authorities. The website for the National Center on Elder Abuse is http://www.ncea.aoa.gov.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions.

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF ELDER ABUSE – ANSWERS

1. It is always best for elderly parents to live with family members. True or False. FALSE – In many cases, this is simply not true. For one thing, the family member may not have training in elderly care. In addition, this type of caretaker may not be supervised as closely and carefully as a non-relative hired to do the job. There also may difficulty firing the caretaker, especially if it is a family member.

2. There are always physical signs of elder abuse. True or False. FALSE Some of the worst types of abuse do not involve any kind of touching. Mental, emotional, and financial abuse often leave few if any clues or signs. Also, these types of abuse sometimes cannot be verified unless the caretaker is put under constant monitoring, which is usually not the case even in the best nursing homes.

3. Practically all cases of elder abuse are reported to the authorities. True or False. FALSE – Studies have shown that 84% of all incidents go unreported.

4. If an elderly relative is being abused, all family members will want to know about it and immediately reported it to the authorities. True or False. FALSE – Some family members, not wanting to get more involved than absolutely necessary, may be too busy or too detached to care about any allegations of abuse. They may also simply not love the relative as much as may be expected; in some cases, they may even hate or have something against the relative. In fact, a family member is more likely than a hired person to do something or fail to do something for personal reasons rather than commit the act themselves. They may also, for a number of difficult-to-explain reasons, actually resent the family member they have now been burdened with-though this is something they may have difficulty admitting to, even to themselves.

5. All states and communities are eager to save and protect the elderly from abusive situations. True or False. FALSE – Investigating and ultimately prosecuting abusers can be a very expensive thing. Additionally, some people have a head-in-the-sand attitude when it comes to ugly crimes, like child abuse, rape, and elderly abuse. After all, these cases are extremely upsetting, prompting some people to avoid addressing them, if at all possible.  In many of the smaller cities and towns, it is not considered a high priority where burglary, murder and DUI’s are more important.

6. Men are more likely to abuse the elderly. True or False. FALSE -Ironically, over half of those that were responsible for this type of abuse and neglect were women. The only exception was elder financial abuse. Nearly 60% of perpetrators were men, mostly between the ages of 30 and 59.

7. Elder abuse has no financial impact on the economy. True or False.  FALSE – Elder abuse has an affect on families, businesses and puts a strain on government resources and non-profit organizations. It is estimated that abuse costs tens of billions of dollars a year in lost revenue, damages and health care costs.

8. If an elder does not complain about being abused, he/she must be okay. True or False. FALSE – Many seniors don’t report the abuse they face even if they’re able. Some fear retaliation from the abuser, while others believe that if they turn in their abusers, no one else will take care of them. When the caregivers are their children, they may be ashamed that their children are behaving abusively or blame themselves.

9. It’s unlikely for the wealthy to experience elder abuse in their families. True or False. FALSE – There have been many cases of very wealthy seniors who were victims of elder financial abuse. Mickey Rooney, Brooke Astor and Doris Duke to just name a few.

10 Elder abuse is a concern only for western cultures. True or False. FALSE – The Asian culture is now seeing an increase in severe elder abuse reports.

11. Are you able to define “Granny Snatching?” Granny snatching, according to the National Association to Stop Granny Snatching, occurs when greedy guardians exploit elder or disabled family members by moving them to a state with laxer rules. Granny snatching laws vary drastically from state to state.

12. Name at least three warning signs of elder abuse. For physical abuse, one example is unexplained cuts, sores, or burns, for financial exploitation, excessive cash gifts for care and companionship is an example and for neglect, lack of hygiene is an example.

13. Elder abuse referred to as the _______ crime.  Elder abuse is referred to as the “silent” crime.

14. All police officers are trained in elder abuse matters. True or False. FALSE – Many police officers consider elder abuse a family matter, not a crime.  They often view reports of financial exploitation as a family squabble over money.

15. As one gets older, the capacity to make sensible choices and financial decisions diminishes considerably. True or False. FALSE – Many seniors are very capable of making responsible decisions and have maintained most of their mental faculties.

16. Most elders are aware when they are being abused. True or False. FALSE – As shocking as this may sound, in some cultures, elderly women, who are treated as second-class citizens, would not be able to distinguish the difference.

If you were able to answer many of these questions correctly, good.  If not, take the time to educate yourself.  Elder abuse is an universal problem that is becoming an epidemic.

As I always mention, please report any incidents of elder abuse to your local authorities. The website for the National Center for Elder Abuse is http://www.ncea.aoa.gov.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions.