Monday, January 31, 2011

Elder abuse, often unnoticed, growing at alarming rate

An article published in Sign on San Diego reports in the astounding growth in reported cases and prosecutions of elder abuse cases.

The article focuses on the growth of the scourge of elder abuse in society and it refers to the horrific case of Arnold V. "Max" Bauer, a 93 year old Pearl Harbour survivor who was allegedly bilked for thousands of dollars by his live-in caretaker.

The article explains the growth in elder abuse. It stated:
Experts estimate that only one in 13 elder-abuse cases are reported nationwide, based on various surveys and studies.

“We are only getting the tip of the iceberg,” said San Diego County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Varnau, who oversees financial- and elder-abuse crime units for his agency. “It’s a dirty little secret and Mr. Bauer’s case is a very clear example of how someone is isolated and forgotten about.”

In San Diego County, the District Attorney’s Office has seen the number of elder-abuse prosecutions rise in the past five years — from 183 cases in 2006 to 238 last year. The county’s elder-abuse hotline receives nearly 10,000 calls a year

The problem of elder abuse is all encompassing. The article states:
Many cases have both financial and physical abuse, said Paul Greenwood, deputy district attorney and head of the office’s Elder Abuse Prosecution Unit. ...

“We are not able to provide the infrastructure to deal with the avalanche of referrals that are going to be coming in the next five years,” Greenwood said.

An addendum to the national Healthcare Reform Act, which Congress approved last year, would provide money for combating elder abuse. But there has been no funding allocation so far.
Elder abuse is often unreported because it is done by family or friends:
Nearly 95 percent of seniors live at home and almost all elder abuse occurs there, the majority perpetrated by family members, said Kathleen Quinn, executive director of the Illinois-based National Adult Protective Services Association. “Trusted others” — such as home health-care workers, neighbors and friends — make up the next largest group of abusers.

“It’s absolutely an enormous problem,” Quinn said.

Then there is the problem of "New best friends."
“These crimes occur because families are separated by distance and a new “friend” comes into the lives of these elders,” Greenwood said. “They don’t rob elders with guns and knives, they extract the assets through charm and flowers and boxes of chocolates.”

Reporting senior abuse can be difficult for those who may notice something is off: a garden that’s usually lovingly tended becomes overgrown, a once-tidy house falls into disarray, a sociable senior no longer answers the phone or chats over a fence line, an elderly person is confused about the household finances, a caretaker sounds overly defensive.

The article was concluded by a quote from Sgt. Mark Varnau:
“It’s not a question of if they are going to fail,” Varnau said. “It’s a matter of when. People slip away and become completely vulnerable to being victimized.”

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