As the number of Baby Boomers entering the retirement years rises, so does the problem of elder abuse. Like all abuse, it is often a crime of opportunity. The people with the most opportunity are family members and caregivers.
Granny cams, family, friends and volunteer visitors from church or through the local Area Agency on Aging can watch for physical and sexual abuse. Signs that it may be occurring can be seen in isolation, reluctance to be alone in someone’s presence and an unexplained silence or restraint.
Many conditions can lead to easy bruising. But all bruises should be examined and the circumstances giving rise to them changed if medically possible.
The early stages of neglect and self-neglect are easily missed. Visits should include refrigerator and cupboard, laundry basket and medicine cabinet inspection. Maintenance is less expensive than cure.
Financial exploitation is a major problem. Perhaps 60% or more is committed by family members; 30% by people who have been named the agent under a power of attorney. A free guide, “Money Smart for Older Adults – Preventing Financial Exploitation” is available in several languages from www.consumerfinance.gov, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Where there is any room for question, the person providing the care should not have control of the purse strings.
A power of attorney can direct the agent to provide accountings to someone else periodically or on request. (That someone should have a copy of the power of attorney.)
TrueLink Financial offers a debit card which limits where purchases can be made and provides an online record of every purchase www.truelinkfinancial.com. This can be helpful in removing temptation from both declining elders and their caregivers.
If an elder is being harassed by real or alleged creditors, www.helpsishere.org can put an end to the calls. Social Security and pensions cannot be garnished by creditors. Even the IRS and student loans cannot garnish more than 15% to collect old debts.
In Central Texas, Family Eldercare provides money management and counseling for incapacitated and disabled individuals and guardians for seniors who have suffered neglect, abuse or exploitation. www.familyeldercare.org.
More information and suggestions are available from
the blogs of the National Center on Elder Abuse at gero.usc.edu/news-home/;
the National Center for Elder Abuse at ncea.acl.gov/; and
the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life at www.ncall.us.
Terry Garrett is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is active in the Texas and Austin Bar Associations. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.
She assists families of people with special needs, people planning for the retirement years and people administering estates.