by Lori Williams
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal stated that more older Americans have fallen victim to elder abuse during the pandemic. Elder Abuse is defined as an “intentional or negligent act that harms someone 60 or older in a physical, emotional or financial way.”
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation “the number of elder-fraud victims increased 55% between 2019 and 2020.” A study by Yale University researchers found, “more than 1 in 5 older adults living in homes or apartments, as opposed to facilities, reported abuse in April and May 2020” this was during the early pandemic lockdowns. That figure itself represents “an 83.6% increase over pre-pandemic prevalence estimates.”
What is driving this increase in elder abuse? Isolation and loss of social connection is a key risk factor, especially for seniors living alone or those who have cognitive impairment due to dementia. Another factor, is the number of licensed and experienced caregivers leaving the workforce due to burnout and low pay. These aren’t just caregivers working in nursing homes, but also caregivers employed by home care agencies providing care to seniors in their homes. There has also been an increase in phone and internet scammers. Seniors are targeted because they tend to be more trusting, typically own their home and have savings. In addition, seniors tend not to report fraud because they’re embarrassed and don’t want their family members to think they can’t manage their own finances.
What can you do to protect yourself or a senior loved one from elder abuse? Education and open conversations are key. Be sure to share these tips with the older adults in your life:
Stay active in your community and connected with friends or family. If your friend or family member is homebound, you can always check in with a phone call or even a zoom or FaceTime call.
Watch for signs of physical abuse, neglect or mistreatment – unexplained bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, burns, unattended medical needs, unsanitary living conditions/poor hygiene.
Be aware of emotional abuse signs – unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, depression, stained or tense relationships, arguments between caregiver and older adult, isolation from friends or family, increased anxiety.
Many seniors are on social media, which is great, but make sure privacy settings have been enabled. Be sure to only interact with people you personally know.
Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, mailings and door-to door service offers.
Scammers play on fear and emotions to create urgency for immediate action – resist the pressure to act quickly.
Top scams are the Romance Scam, Grandparent Scam and Government Impersonation Scam. Visit www.oig.ssa.gov/scam for the latest on scam alerts.
NEVER give or send any personally identifiable information, money, jewelry, gift cards, checks to unverified people or businesses.
Be careful what you download and never open email attachments from someone you don’t know.
Use Direct Deposit for your checks.
Hang up or ignore suspicious calls, text messages, or emails that request your personal information, demand payment or threaten action.
If you suspect any type of abuse, you should contact the appropriate authorities.
Immediate danger, call 911
If you suspect abuse, but the danger is not imminent, contact your local Adult Protective Services (APS) agency. https://www.napsa-now.org/get-help/help-in-your-area/
If you suspect abuse of a person living in a nursing home, assisted living, memory care, or residential care home, contact the local Long Term Care Ombudsman. https://apps.hhs.texas.gov/news_info/ombudsman/search.cfm
To learn more about senior living resources and options, be sure to visit my website, www.loriwilliams-seniorserives.com. Also, be sure to subscribe to the monthly newsletter and listen to episodes of my podcast, Aging in Style with Lori Williams.