Last month Grandma received a unique phone call. “Hi Grandma! Do you know who this is?!” Grandma responded, “John! How are you? How is college?” A name is all the caller needed. An hour later Grandma was wiring money to “her grandson John” who claimed to be in desperate need of cash to help with an emergency. And by the way Grandma, “Don’t tell mom and dad!”
Unfortunately, this is common. According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year over 500,000 reports of elder abuse and neglect are made to local authorities. Elder abuse can take many forms, including emotional, financial, physical, sexual, and neglect. Risk factors that contribute to elder abuse often include isolation and substance abuse. When few people are involved in an elder’s life, it’s easier for abuse to occur. For elders residing in a care facility, additional risk factors include lack of training and high stress levels among employees. Poor work conditions, high expectations, and limited family involvement also contribute to an environment where elder abuse can occur.
What Can You Do?
- Notice if an elder is suddenly withdrawn or has a significant change in personality.
- Visit with and listen to your loved ones. Investigate concerns and intervene if necessary.
- Check for unexplained discrepancies in your loved one’s financial accounts.
- Advise your loved ones never to prepay over the phone for services or donations. When considering a charitable donation, offer to serve as a second opinion. If an elder is a victim of fraud, refrain from interpreting this as incompetence to manage financial affairs.
- Some things to watch for include bruises, bed sores, scratches, slap marks, and burns.
If you suspect that an older neighbor, acquaintance, friend, or relative is being abused, neglected or exploited, call your local Adult Protective Services (APS). You don’t have to have proof of abuse or neglect; If you’re concerned that this is happening, you should call. When you call for help, your name remains confidential. Representatives from APS listen to your concerns and, if necessary, interview the elder at their home to determine if s/he needs assistance.
If a situation is serious, threatening, or dangerous, always call 911 or your local police for immediate assistance. More information about the types of elder abuse can be found in Helpguide.org by clicking here. For state-specific information on elder abuse, call the Eldercare Locator at (800) 677-1116 or click here.
You don’t have to figure this out on your own. Call Care.com’s Adult & Senior Care Advisors toll free at (855) 781-1303. Our Care Advisors are masters-level social workers with significant expertise in elder care. We’ll listen to your situation and provide you with guidance and options that can best meet your needs. We look forward to talking with you!