The surprisingly common and close-family ties of elder abuse was the focus of this month’s Town Hall meeting, which was held at the Crowell Public Library on Monday, Oct. 7.
With around a quarter of the nation’s wealth in the hands of adults aged 65 and over, the elder population is at a high risk for financial abuse, as well as physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and isolation. Presenter Renee Rose, deputy-in-charge of the Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse Section of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office, told gathered residents that the elder generation tends also to be independent and trusting, having experienced World War II and lived in closer-knit communities.
Unfortunately, these hallmarks of trust often leave elders vulnerable to the manipulative tactics of family members, exploitive care takers, predatory professionals as well as complete strangers.
“They believe the voice at the end of the phone, the person at the front door and the legitimacy of the quality and content of the mail that they receive, which we know is not what it used to be but that’s how it was, that’s how they remember it to be and that’s what they believe it to be,” said Rose.
According to Rose, 1 in 10 Americans will experience some type of elder abuse. Only 1 in 14 will be reported to police or social workers. In California, which has the largest senior population in the nation, around 500,000 adults suffer elder abuse annually. Rose noted that elder abuse can also include domestic violence, as the primary abusers are family members who care from them in their home.
For seniors with limited physical and cognitive abilities who often fear abandonment, the stability of being able to stay in their home can leave them open to manipulation from the caretaker.
“If the difference between going into an institution or facility means that they have to undergo this abuse, they will because they do not want to leave their home,” said Rose.
Some of most common abusers are trusted family members, attorneys, financial planners, caretakers and friends from church, according to Rose. Around 90 percent of victims know their abuser. Rose also often sees a combination of “need, greed, opportunity and entitlement” with exploitive adult children who reside in the senior’s home to care for them.
“Usually the person that is home with mom and dad and spending the time with them is the person that mom and dad are most dependent on, and that’s the person they are most bonded with even though that’s the person stealing from them,” said Rose.
Indicators of financial abuse include unusual bank or ATM activity, unusual credit card activity, lack of amenities that victim should be able to afford, missing checks and financial statements, confusion regarding financial arrangements, an uncared-for elder, a filthy house, unkempt clothing, missing property, and new will/trust/power of attorney.
To prevent elder abuse, Rose recommended screening phone calls, hanging up if the caller isn’t known, shredding documents, using peepholes or intercoms to identify visitors, calling police if a stranger refuses to leave and verifying the identity of strangers before starting a business or making a donation.
Common ways to avoid abuse include not buying anything over the phone unless you called first, not sharing personal information with unsolicited callers, not wiring money to strangers, never unlocking or opening doors to unknown or uninvited strangers, never letting strangers into a home or backyard, never giving contractors a down payment more than 10 percent of a project cost and not opening email from unknown senders.
To report suspected elder abuse, contact the San Marino Police Department at (626) 300-0720 or Adult Protective Services of Los Angeles County at (877) 477-3646.
San Marino resident Soma Warna said she felt the presentation was crucial for more people to be aware of in the community as she knew several friends who had become victims.
“I won’t become a victim, hopefully, because I’m screening all the calls, but you never know what happens,” said Warna. “That brought me here and it’s so important to know in the rest of the world what’s happening with domestic violence.”