St. Irenaeus Health Ministry this month sponsored a workshop on elder abuse prevention. The featured speaker was Kelli Jean Morris, JD, LLM, and director, Senior Protection Program (SPP) and Coordinator of the Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST) from the Council on Aging, Southern California.
Morris began by explaining the free services available through the Council on Aging to assist older and disabled adults and their families. These include the Health Insurance Counseling & Advocacy Program (HICAP); Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program; Reconnect Early Intervention Services; Friendly Visitor Program; SmileMakers Guild; and Answers Guide.
Morris shared some stunning statistics. Presently there are about 400,000 elders in Orange County, but the number of elders (age 65 and over) is predicted to double by 2050 and the number of people age 85 and over, the most vulnerable, will triple. With this growth of older adults, the risk of elder abuse is predicted to rise.
She cited the legal definition of elder abuse and the forms of elder abuse: physical, emotional, neglect and financial abuse. Overmedicating a resident is one form of physical abuse. Self-neglect can occur due to physical or mental decline or from the senior’s fear of not being able to afford medications. It is estimated that 11% of all elder abuse cases in the United States occur in California. It’s estimated that only 1 of every 14 cases are known to authorities, but it may be as high as 1 in 25, according to a study in New York. Financial elder abuse is the fastest-growing form of elder abuse in the country.
Elder abuse is the most unreported crime. The primary reasons that elder abuse is not reported are embarrassment to have been scammed; fear of the perpetrator; reliance on the perpetrator to take care of them and reluctance to report against a family member.
The most common types of financial abuse, in order of prevalence, are: The Romance Scam, The Grandparent/family/friend Emergency, Imposter Scams, such as the IRS scam, Employment Scams and Sweepstakes/lottery/prizes or unexpected winnings.
Kelli emphasized the need to report all forms of elder abuse. Physical elder abuse needs to be reported to Adult Protective Services (APS) or the local police department. If you report to APS, your report will be confidential. If you are a victim of financial scams or fraud, report to local law enforcement, APS or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You may be able to prevent others from being victimized. Sometimes you can get your money back, but it is difficult. The best way to avoid becoming a victim is prevention through education.